Black and white photo of three smiling, seated figures with their hands in their laps

Evelyn Abbew, Sackey Mensah and a Friend, "Ever Young" Studio, Accra, 1950-1959

James Barnor

Gelatin silver print

Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière and James Barnor L2020.84.2

Not on View

James Barnor was a member of a thriving local photographic community actively involved in representing Ghana’s transition from colonialism to independence. He was a photographer for The Daily Graphic, a popular newspaper in Ghana, and Drum magazine, an illustrated monthly specifically for Black Africans. Barnor also opened the first color-processing laboratory in Accra in 1969, working with the film company Agfa-Gevaert. Now based in London, Barnor frequently works between England, France, and Ghana.

Barnor selected four images as representations of his work in Ghana in the 1950s, when Todd Webb traveled to the continent. Although Barnor and Webb never met, Webb visited Ghana at a time when Barnor was working in his popular Ever Young Photographic Studio. It is unclear why the United Nations did not hire a Black African photographer, like Barnor, for the assignment. The United Nations Office of Information’s selection of a successful, white American photographer based in New York near its headquarters, with whom it already had a professional relationship, reveals a possible lack of knowledge about African photographers; it also suggests a privileging of Webb’s American voice. By bringing Barnor’s images in conversation with those of Webb, a broader vision forms of activities on the continent in the late 1950s. These photographs provide another vision and voice, one coming from within the newly independent Ghanaian nation-state.

Image: In Copyright. Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière and James Barnor

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