FOMU EN

INTERVIEW JAMES BARNOR: 'I'm pleased to be alive at 94 years and still be talking about my pictures.'

Video   •   03:30 December 2023

In response to his exhibition at FOMU, we had a talk with James Barnor. His versatile talent and influential images make him a pioneer in the history of photography. In recent years, Barnor's work has received increasing international attention for its unique insight into a crucial era of the 20th century.

'I was born into a family of photographers. When I left school the teacher gave me a camera. He gave me a a brownie camera, baby brownie, and without any training, I started taking pictures.' This marks the beginning of the career of the British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor (1929). In 1949, he establishes his photography studio, Ever Young, in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

62a7c8ac 06dd 4b8c 9f2e 53a2b04be33b

Ever Young, Jamestown, Accra, 1956 © James Barnor / Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

His studio Ever Young, grew into a pivotal meeting place for young Ghanaians who longed for freedom from British colonial rule. From 1951, Barnor also became one of his country's first local photojournalists. His studio work and street photography captured the pride and exuberance of a vibrant city on the cusp of independence, obtained in 1957.

Barnor in Belgium

In 1969, Barnor spent several months in Belgium. 'I was 10 years in Ghana as photographic apprentice and then another ten years in England, London, where I studied colour and had to do some further studies with Agfa Gevaert. That was what brought me here in Antwerp, Mortsel specially'

James barnor cf jb 2589 1000

© James Barnor / Courtesy of galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James barnor cf jb 2591 1000

James Barnor photographs two girls in the Groenplaats, Antwerp 1969 © James Barnor / Courtesy of galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James barnor cf jb 2588 1000

‘Kent’, Antwerpen-Central station 1969 © James Barnor / Courtesy of galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James barnor cf jb 2592 1000

Agfacolorschool in front of Het Steen, Antwerp, 1969 © James Barnor / Courtesy of galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

BARNORJ COL POS 120 0000103 LORES

In Mortsel, Antwerp, at the Agfacolorschool, he is introduced to the unique development process of Agfa-Gevaert. 'In the night, I'll take a tram and come to Antwerp and just go around, you know, or go to a nightclub and spend some time there.' according to Barnor. 'I was amazed by the lights in Antwerp. I felt like taking pictures all the time, taking the pictures.' After a decade which saw his artistry and craftsmanship flourish, he returned to Ghana in 1970. He opened the country's first commercial colour-processing laboratory in Accra and became a representative for Agfa-Gevaert.

International recognition

In recent years, Barnor's work has received increasing international attention for its unique insight into a crucial era of the 20th century. James Barnor: Studio of Life provides a retrospective of the photographer's exceptional trajectory, and of a long underrepresented perspective of modern world history.

James Barnor - Studio of Life offers an overview of James Barnor's (b. Ghana, 1929) remarkable career. His multifaceted and powerful images made him a photography pioneer. This exhibition not only showcases Barnor's rich and diverse body of work but also examines the cultural connections between Accra, London and Antwerp.

from 26.10.2023 until 10.03.2024 at FOMU

Share page
tickets