30 July 2021

James Barnor Retrospective

I recently went to The Serpentine to visit the first major art exhibition I'd seen since Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern back in December 2019.  It felt good to be back in a gallery!  The excellent James Barnor retrospective celebrates the career of the British-Ghanaian photographer, which spans six decades, two continents and multiple photography genres.

James Barnor, Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967 - James Barnor, Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967

Born in 1929 in Accra, Barnor started working in 1947 before opening his studio in the 1950s and covering portraiture, editorial commissions, photojournalism, street reportage, black lifestyle photography and wider social commentary.  He arrived in London in 1959, shooting assignments for the African magazine Drum, reflecting the changing fashions, culture and spirit of the era.

James Barnor, Sick Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra, c 1957 - James Barnor, Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine GallerySick Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra, c 1957

James Barnor: Accra/London - A Retrospective covers a remarkable period in history, documenting social and political changes across Ghana as it moved towards independence, the swinging sixties in the UK and the black British experience, as London evolved into a multicultural metropolis. 

Considered a pioneer of Ghanaian photography, Barnor was the first photographer to shoot Ghana in colour and the first photographer to put black women on the covers of British magazines.  The photography is joyful, and the admission is free - go, and let me know what you think!

James Barnor: Accra/ London - A Retrospective runs until 22 October 2021
at the Serpentine North Gallery | Browse other culture features & London posts

James Barnor, Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London, 1960s - James Barnor, Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London, 1960s

James Barnor, Drum Cover Girl, Erlin Ibreck, London, 1966 - James Barnor, Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
Drum Cover Girl, Erlin Ibreck, London, 1966

James Barnor Untitled, 1975 - Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery - London 2021 photography exhibitions
Untitled, 1975

James Barnor, Drum cover girl Marie Hallowi #1, Rochester, Kent (1966) - Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
Drum cover girl Marie Hallowi #1, Rochester, Kent (1966)

James Barnor, Drum cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London, 1966 - Accra London Retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery
Drum cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London, 1966

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