James Barnor took his first photograph aged 17, on a plastic Kodak Brownie 127 given to him by his teacher. At 20 he set up his own portrait studio in Accra, then at 21 he became one of the first photojournalists in Ghana when he landed a job at the country’s first quotidian newspaper, The Daily Graphic. Barnor moved to London in 1959 and spent the sixties shooting fashion for Africa’s leading magazine at the time, Drum.
Ever Young, named after his Accra studio, is the first exhibition to span Barnor’s entire career. It includes his early portraits of family and friends plus images for The Daily Graphic – of politicians and boxers alike. But the most vibrant are his fashion shots, of African models who lived in the UK, wearing oh-so-sixties clothes in oh-so-London settings like in front of a red phone box or leaving a tube station.
Barnor never chose his subjects and worked entirely from commissions so he could pay the bills. But his images – of Ghanian politicians fighting for independence and of young black models in London – mark a historical progression to modernity and multiculturalism.
Ever Young is on at Rivington Place in Shoreditch until 27 November.