James Barnor: The Roadmaker

James Barnor (b.1929) was Ghana’s first international press photographer. He came from a family of photographers and established his own studio in Accra, Ever Young in 1950. He worked from this studio at the time of Ghana’s independence whilst also selling his pictures to the Daily Graphic and Drum magazines.

He came to Britain in 1959, and whilst working in a factory, he took photography evening classes at the London College of Printmaking and lessons with the Colour Processing Laboratory in Kent. He went on to study at Medway College of Arts, where he gained employment as a technician, eventually returning to Accra in 1969, where he established X23, the city’s first colour photography studio. He returned to London in the 1990s.

Publishers: RRB Photobooks /// Maison CF

Cover Photo: Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, Drum cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires. London, 1967 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra, c. 1974-1975 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

At Ataa Quarcoopome‘Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra, late 1970s s place, Accra, c. 1970-71 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, relaxing after a hot Summer Sunday walk, Kent, c. 1969 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Friends at Mr & Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London, c. 1966 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

In 2009 the 80 year-old photographer revealed his archive to two London curators. His archive is a remarkable document of post-war modernity spanning photographs from the time of Ghana’s independence, scenes of multi-cultural London, and later images recording a strong postcolonial identity in Ghana.

The earliest photographs in the book and exhibition include lively street scenes taken in Accra after Barnor had been encouraged by Jim Baily, editor of Drum, to record Ghanaian Independence. These are contrasted with his composed studio portraits taken at Ever Young, showing his photographic range from the start of his career. An image of Barnor himself captured working in the Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium, 1969 and an image of a print in progress, made at Studio X23, Accra, c. 1972, offers insights to his working practice. Once in London, Barnor’s commissioned magazine work and his informal photographs of friendships recorded the diversification of Britain.

Publisher`s Info

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Ever Young studio, Accra, c. 1954 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Woman in orange dress and cars: Accra, 1971 A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Kids dressed in identical suits, Accra, 1970s © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Sick-Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra, c. 1972 © James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor - The Roadmaker - Bildersturm Blog

Book Specs: The Roadmaker by James Barnor published by Maison CF / RRB Photobooks | May 2021 | Hardcover | 275mm x 300mm | 64 pages | English Edition of 1000 copies, including 150 copies with 220 x 220 mm estate stamped pigment print | £45 | £120 with print. Available here.

The book includes an essay by Dr Damarice Amao, photography historian and curator. The exhibition James Barnor: Ghanaian Modernist at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is part of the inaugural Bristol Photo Festival and will showcase over 40 photographs. The exhibition will be on display until 31 October 2021.