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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

James Barnor: Ever Young

Ever Young  is a collection of pictures from the archive of Ghanaian-born photographer James Barnor that creates a kind of timeline of the move of photographer from the studio into news, fashion and reportage. It's a kind of social history through photography if you like.

It's really a catalogue of Barnor's career, going from his days shooting for Drum Magazine, his time in charge of the Forever Young studio in Accra, and his subsequent move to London just in time for the 1960s.

There are pictures of Barnor with Ghana's first prime-minister, we see a spread on Roy Akrah (the Black Flash), a boxing champion Barnor shot for Drum Magazine, and pictures taken at the Drum Party on Chorkor Beach in Accra.

The late 1950s sees the opening of the Ever Young Studios and a series of studio portraits in which the aspirational modernity of post-colonial Ghana is shown. There are priests, nurses, street performers and a professor of yoga. It's a great section that ties in well, but is so very different, to the other great studio photography of the era. I don't know enough about Ghana but you can feel a Ghanaian identity coming through in places.

London in the 1960s shows black Britain, especially 'Drum Cover Girls' - in Trafalgar Square, feeding pigeons, and posing by the underground. There's eating grapes by a swimming pool in Kent, and portraits of Mohammed Ali before and after his fight with Brian London.

It's back to Africa and here we get Accra in colour, including some magnificent pictures from the colour processing shop that Barnor now managed.

Ever Young is an eclectic mix of studio portraits, press images, fashion and street photography and a broad introduction to how photography was used and expanded in Ghana and beyond. The pictures are great but it's not (as far as I understand) Barnor's complete archive so you get the feeling there is more to come. But it is an introduction to the work of a photographer who has been mostly overlooked until now and the pictures are fabulous.

Buy Ever Young here.

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