People and Places: James Banor, the 'Ever Young'
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People and Places: James Banor, the 'Ever Young'

James Barnor is one of Ghana’s foremost celebrated photojournalists who has dedicated his life to capturing some of Ghana’s historic moments, iconic structures and everyday life stories and experiences of his people in Ghana and the UK.

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 With a career spanning over seven decades, the nonagenarian is Ghana’s living legend in the photography industry.

Background

Born on June 6, 1929, in James Town, Accra, the young Barnor was inspired to explore photography on account of a camera gift he received.

As someone who comes from a family of photographers, he started as an apprentice at his cousin's photography studio, where his career and passion for photography began. 

His cousin, J.P. Dodoo, was then a well-known portrait photographer in Accra. He also learned from another cousin, Julius Aikins, who worked in the darkroom for West African Photographic Services. Aikins introduced Barnor to the darkroom technique and photojournalism.

After his training, in 1949, Mr Barnor opened Ever Young Studios in the Jamestown district in Accra and later, Studio X23. Barnor was employed as the first photographer of Graphic Communications Group Limited in the early 1950s.

In 1959, he had the opportunity to travel to the UK where he studied photography at Medway College of Art in Kent; an opportunity he attributed to his teacher and his affiliation to the British clients he encountered during his photography journey.

While in the UK, he contributed numerous documentaries and fashion photographs to the weekly magazine, Drum, Africa's first black lifestyle magazine. After about a decade in the UK, Mr Barnor returned to Ghana in 1970 to help set up the country's first colour-processing laboratory for the company, Sick-Hagemeyer, a subsidiary of Agfa-Gevaert.

Achievements

Mr Barnor has photographed high-profile figures such as Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah; the Duchess of Kent, Princess Marina; former US Vice-President, Richard Nixon, who became the 37th President of the US; boxer, Mohammed Ali, among many others.

He has also shot fashion images, including covers for Drum magazine, and album covers for musicians.

Barnor has set up a UK-registered charity, the James Barnor Foundation, to achieve various aims that are close to his heart, including education and training, promoting and advocating  the preservation of African cultures and highlighting African cultural talents.

As part of activities to celebrate his 95th birthday, a two-month long festival is being organised by the James Barnor Foundation to showcase his works.

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