James Barnor Stories, Pictures from the Archives (1947-1987)

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By Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Damarice Ammo, Bianca Manu, Isabella Seniuta, Margaux Lavernhe

Preface by Matthieu Humer

Photography by James Barnor

James Barnor Stories, Pictures from the Archives (1947-1987) offers a kaleidoscopic overview of the Ghanaian photographer’s oeuvre. From Accra to London and back, from the end of the colonial era to the early 1980s, from studio portraits to press commissions, the reader gains an insight into the process behind Barnor’s best-known images while exploring more personal aspects of this exceptional archive. Barnor continues to inspire generations of contemporary artists, and whose work is now included in the most prestigious international collections.

The book extensively covers not only Barnor's greatest works from 1947-1987, but also gives insight into his process, his impact on the wider photographic industry across the decades and discusses the legacy of Barnor's practice.

James Barnor (born 1929) began training in a photographic studio in Accra in 1947 as the first demonstrations calling for Ghana's independence were taking place and opened his first photography studio in Accra, Ghana, in 1949. He also worked for the press, capturing in photos the movement that led to his country’s independence in 1957. Living in the United Kingdom from 1959 to 1969, he documented the experience of the diaspora in the “Swinging London” of the sixties. He branched out to color photography, and returned to Ghana in 1970 to cultivate the use of the technique. In 1987, it took a last change of direction after he ceased working as an official government photographer. Over the next four decades, driven by his limitless curiosity for the photographic medium, but also by sometimes difficult economic conditions that compelled him to reinvent himself. In 2021 he was honored with a large-scale retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

His trajectory has revolved between the two poles of a world he has made for himself: Accra, his birthplace, and London, his adopted city.  For his first retrospective in France in 2022, James Barnor had assembled, with LUMA, a completely original portfolio of his favorite images which form the basis of this book. It also gives plentiful space to the comments of the photographer, now ninety-three years old and a veritable archive of information that enlivens the myriad stories represented in his images. 

Barnor's images bring to life the utopia of a shared world, one that transcends the nationalisms of the second half of the 20th century. Long side-lined, today these images inspire a new generation of artists who are fighting to represent blackness around the world.

Hardcover, 300 pages comprised of photographs, archive material and essays

Dimensions: 10" x 10 7/8" x 1 1/4"