Acclaimed Ghanaian photographer organises festival to celebrate contemporary art 

Accra, June 7, GNA – Mr James Barnor, the most celebrated Ghanaian photographer, will celebrate his 95th birthday with the organisation of the James Barnor 95 Festival. 

The festival is a celebration of cultural heritage and artistic innovation while paying homage to the iconic photographer for a long-term impact on the Ghanaian arts and culture scene.  

To celebrate this event, Mr Barnor will be travelling back to Ghana with a packed programme of events, including exhibitions, screenings and concerts to celebrate the most famous photographer on this momentous occasion. 

A statement issued in Accra by the organisers said born in Ghana in 1929, Mr Barnor opened his renowned Ever Young studio in Accra, where he immortalized the nation at the moment of its independence. 

He was the first photojournalist to collaborate with The Daily Graphic, published in Ghana by London’s Daily Mirror Group. 

In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, Barnor moved to London to deepen his technical knowledge of the medium. 

He discovered colour photography at the Medway College of Art and his pictures were published on the cover of Drum, an important magazine founded in South Africa in 1951 and a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. 

He eloquently captured the spirit of Swinging London and the experiences of the African diaspora in the British capital. 

In the late 1960s, he was recruited by Agfa-Gevaert and returned to Ghana to set up the country’s first colour laboratory. 

He stayed there for the next twenty years, working in his new Studio X23 as a freelance photographer and for state agencies in Accra. 

Currently, Mr Barnor lives in the United Kingdom, where his work has recently given rise to numerous exhibitions and publications, including a touring retrospective curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, shown at the Serpentine in London in 2021, MASI Lugano, Switzerland, in 2022 and the Detroit Institute of Art, MI, USA in 2023. 

It said in October 2023, Mr Barnor Studio of Life opened at FOMU Antwerp, in Belgium and coinciding with the photographer’s 95th birthday, the Barnor 95 festival commenced from May 2024.  

The festival will serve as an opportunity for discourse between a historical archive and Ghana’s vibrant contemporary art scene and by presenting Barnor’s work through and alongside contemporary Ghanaian actors, the festival intends to bridge past and present to inspire new artistic and curatorial approaches.  

The statement said Ghanaian creatives were set to take centre stage, where sixteen young photographers would also be shown in the sixteen regions of Ghana ensuring Barnor’s enduring visual legacy. 

It said exhibitions will be free to access by the public and extended for several months. 

Meanwhile, the festival team was committed to building a lasting impact on the local arts scene by actively engaging with the community and fostering inclusivity. 

It said by expanding locations to Tamale (SCCA, Red Clay Nuku Studio) and all sixteen regional capitals, including a moving exhibition in a reconditioned aeroplane to be transported by road through six regions of Ghana, its programme aimed to reach rarely targeted audiences. 

The exhibition in JamesTown (Accra) would invest in public outdoor spaces, bringing the neighborhood’s history to the current residents, and would be completely interactive through a two-day community archiving workshop for residents’ photo albums and family photos. 

“Our team strives to minimize the festival’s carbon footprint through our partnership with the NGO Environment360 which will recycle the plastic we generate with the exhibitions,” it said. 

The project is directed and produced by James Barnor (London) and Clémentine de la Féronnière Gallery (Paris) with the support of private and public funding James Barnor Foundation Trustees Myx Quest, John Akomfrah, Damarice Amao, LizzieCarey-Thomas, Ady Sawyerr, Yvonne Barnor, Frederic Quarcoopome Barnor, Rachel Pepper, Clémentine de la Féronnière.