Autograph is delighted to loan more than 50 works from our collection by British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, to Serpentine's touring exhibition James Barnor: Accra/London - A Retrospective at Detroit Institution of Art.
This major loan reflects Autograph's longstanding commitment to and advocacy of Barnor's work, and features works unearthed and printed for the first time during Autograph’s curatorial archive research programme, The Missing Chapter, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009-10. It was our great pleasure to introduce Barnor's remarkable photographs with his first comprehensive solo exhibition James Barnor: Ever Young at Autograph's gallery in Hackney more than a decade ago.
Born in 1929 in Accra, Barnor is considered a pioneer of Ghanaian photography – with a career that spans six decades and covers a remarkable period in history, bridging continents and photographic genres to create transatlantic narratives marked by his passionate interest in people and culture. Through street and studio portraiture, Barnor’s photographs represent societies in transition: Ghana moving towards its independence and London becoming a cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis during the ‘swinging sixties’.
A trained studio photographer and photojournalist, Barnor photographed friends and family as well as fashion models and celebrities, who would pose for him against the backdrop of the city’s most iconic monuments - often commissioned by Drum magazine, South Africa’s influential anti-apartheid journal for lifestyle and politics – before returning to Accra in 1969. He is now widely recognised as a major figure in contemporary African photography and celebrated globally.
Autograph is immensely proud of our work with James Barnor over many years, starting in 2009 during The Missing Chapter. The mission of this project was to promote and preserve the work of key —and often unrecognised—artists working in photography and cultural identity politics in Britain. Led by our senior curator Renée Mussai, this programme resulted in the ground-breaking 2010 exhibition James Barnor: Ever Young and the artist’s first monograph published five years later in collaboration with Clémentine de la Féronnière gallery. In the decade since, we have helped open a continuous process of recognition for Barnor's remarkable work and his crucial contributions to the history of photography.
To ensure Barnor's lasting legacy, Autograph has placed many of Barnor's now-iconic photographs in major collections, including Tate Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum and the UK Government Art Collection, as well Wedge Collection (CA); The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College (USA); Brighton Museum & Gallery (UK); and Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NL). A selection of his Barnor’s vintage and modern works were also accessioned into Autograph's collection of photography. And, to support the artist and our work as a charity, a portfolio of limited-edition prints has been made available exclusively through Autograph since 2010.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list