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Two Sisters in-law, Florence and Gifty, 1973/74
© James Barnor
Courtesy of October Gallery, London
SITE 3: Mark Street
Stellebosch Outdoor Photography Exhibition Icon


James Barnor's (HonsFRPS) masterful career has spanned more than six decades of continual development, working as studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer-at-large. Since the 1950s, Barnor’s striking photographs have documented many of the major social and political changes occurring both in the UK (London) and Ghana (Accra).

James Barnor set up his first studio in Accra in 1953, a place frequented as much by the general public as local VIPs and dignitaries. He worked as the first photojournalist for the Daily Graphic before his career flourished with South Africa’s Drum magazine, the influential anti-apartheid lifestyle and politics journal. After moving to the UK, in 1959, Barnor studied photography at Medway College of Art, while continuing to work on commission for , in London, shooting models of all nationalities for its covers. He returned to Ghana in 1969, as a representative for Agfa-Gevaert, to pioneer colour photographic processing, before returning to London in the 80s, where he now lives and works.

Barnor’s wide-ranging portraits depict the self-assurance and individualistic fashion trends that thrived both in London and Accra over time. While international recognition arrived late, Barnor’s meticulous recording of a newly-Independent Ghana and London’s “swinging Sixties” is now recognised as an unparalleled, historic documentation of those times. His work has been exhibited internationally; between 2010 and 2016 his monumental touring exhibition Ever Young with Autograph ABP, featuring new prints made from original, digitally preserved negatives, as well as vintage photographs from the late 1940s to early 1970s, toured the UK and USA. October Gallery first showed his work together with the Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni, in 2016. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of Ghana, he was awarded the Order of the Volta, by President John Mahama at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony of 2016. 

A retrospective of Barnor’s work opened at the new Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana, in 2019. In 2020, he received an Honorary Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society. A major touring retrospective of his work opened at The Serpentine Gallery, London, in 2021 which travelled to MASI Lugano, Switzerland, and will be shown at the Detroit Institute of Art, MI, USA in 2023. In 2022, the LUMA Foundation, Arles, presented Barnor’s first retrospective in France as part of Les Rencontres d’Arles’ annual Summer Photography Festival. The exhibition was inaugurated with the launch of the James Barnor Foundation, which advocates for the preservation of African cultures and focuses upon developing African cultural talent. James Barnor’s work is in prestigious collections such as: MOMA, New York, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate, and the Government Art Collection, London, UK; and Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris, France.


Freedom, I dream up for myself and others.
Inkululeko, ndiphuphela mna nabanye.
Vryheid, ek droom vir myself en ander.

Freedom, I dream up for myself and others, is an exploration of a visual language that bridges gaps between cultures, creates understanding, and inspires empathy and connection. This photographic presentation transcends language barriers and allows people to convey ideas and concepts using imagery and visual cues.


The works selected in this exhibition are intended to be more mindful of the subtleties of our dreams and how we view the world. The works are intended to resonate with us all, and with the medium of photography it does so in its purest form, it does not distort.


Photography is a tool that never warps or ages. This medium teaches us to look, to look again, and to do so harder. This visual universal language has the ability to change perception, encourage understanding, and create a sense of urgency when needed. It has been the reason to incite human action and at other times to inspire human connection.


This exhibition explores the Masters of Photography who draw inspiration from the African continent. It encourages the audience to foster meaningful dialogue in investigating the archive. The artists have pushed boundaries within the medium of photography and created works that have stood the test of time. Archives are not just windows into the past, they are the authentic creations of individual people who lived before us and still live among us. They are the archaeology that was never buried.


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