28 April - 29 May
BAND Gallery and Cultural Centre
In partnership with Autograph ABP, Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND) presents photographs by celebrated African photographer James Barnor, in his first solo exhibition in Canada.
Ever Young features a wide selection of street and studio portraiture from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Through the medium of portraiture, Barnor’s photographs represent societies in transition: Ghana moving towards its independence from colonial rule, and London becoming a cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis during the ‘swinging’ sixties.
The exhibition features both vintage and modern prints in black and white and glorious colour, and is accompanied by a recently published artist monograph.
Born in 1929 in Accra, James Barnor is considered a pioneer of Ghanaian photography whose long career covers a remarkable period in history, bridging continents and photographic genres. In the early 1950s Ever Young – Barnor’s photographic portrait studio in Jamestown, Accra - was frequented by a diverse clientele representing all aspects of society, hosting civil servants and dignitaries to yoga students and college professors, performance artists and newlyweds. During this period Barnor also captured intimate moments of luminaries and key political figures, including Ghana’s first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah as he pushed for pan-African unity and independence from colonial rule. Not only was Barnor engaged as the first photojournalist to work with the Daily Graphic, he was also regularly commissioned by Drum magazine, South Africa’s influential anti-apartheid journal for lifestyle and politics.
In 1959 Barnor moved to London, then a bourgeoning multicultural European capital to deepen his photographic knowledge. During London’s ‘swinging sixties’, he photographed celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, and portrayed Ghanaian BBC radio journalist Mike Eghan on the steps of Eros at Piccadilly Circus. These years were equally punctuated by Barnor’s first encounters with a multinational cohort of aspiring models and Drum cover girls, who would pose for him against the backdrop of the city’s most iconic monuments.
Towards the end of the decade Barnor was recruited and trained as a representative for Agfa-Gevaert, before returning to Ghana in 1969 where he opened the first colour processing laboratory in Accra. For the next two decades, he worked independently as well as for several government agencies in Ghana. Today Barnor is retired and lives in Brentford, London. In 2009, he began working with Autograph ABP and after years of advocacy, curation and research many of his photographs are now widely regarded as iconic moments in photography’s diverse histories, collected and exhibited internationally.
"Whether in Ghana or England, Barnor documented cultures in transformation, new identities coming into being— the fragmented experience of modernity and diaspora; the shaping of cosmopolitan societies and selves; and the changing representation of blackness, desire, and beauty across time and space. His archive thus constitutes not only a rare document of the black experience in post-war Britain during the swinging sixties, but also provides an important frame of reference, overlapping and suturing questions of the post-colonial in relation to diasporic perspectives in twentieth-century photography.
Barnor's remarkable portraits represent significant moments in African diasporic subject formation and the cosmopolitan self-fashioning that emerged in tandem with trans-cultural journeys through modernity and post-colonial worlds—new identities coming into being, epitomized by his subjects with a burning sense of pride and optimism."
- Renée Mussai, Curator