James Barnor: The Legendary Ghanaian Photographer Who Documented Ghana’s Transition From A British Colony Into A Republic

Today is World Photography Day and we are celebrating all the photographers who produce amazing pictures with their lenses.

On this day, World Photography Day, we want to celebrate one legend who transformed how photography is done in Ghana.

Today, we celebrate James Barnor.

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James Barnor, who is referred to as Nkrumah’s photographer, is one of Ghana’s first photographers to shoot in colour. Through photography, he documented Ghana’s transition from colonial rule into a Republic.

James Barnor was born on 6th June 1929 in Accra. He was born into a family of photographers. Two of his uncles and a cousin were photographers.

At the age of 17, Barnor was teaching basket weaving at a missionary school and the headmaster gave him a camera – a Kodak Brownie 127, made of plastic to experiment with.

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In 1947, Barnor started an apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. Dodoo, a well-known portrait photographer. He worked with his cousin for two years.

James Barnor had always wanted to be a policeman so he applied to be a police photographer and he got accepted. Before Barnor started his training, his uncle gave him a camera he used for photography.

In the early 1950s, he opened his famous Ever Young studio in Jameston, Accra, where he immortalised a nation craving modernity and independence in an ambience that was animated by conversation and highlife music.

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He derived the name of the studio, ‘Ever Young’ from the subject of an English comprehension extract he had studied as a schoolboy, entitled “Iduna’s Grove”, about a Norse goddess giving out magic apples to grant eternal youthfulness.

He used pencils to retouch the pictures of the people he shot to make them look younger.

He was Ghana’s first full-time newspaper photographer in the 1950s. He was employed by the Daily Graphic newspaper.


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Notable people James Barnor has photographed include:

Kwame Nkrumah

J.B. Danquah

Sir Charles Arden-Clarke (the last British Governor of the Gold Coast)

Former American Vice-President, Richard Nixon

Roy Ankrah (Ghanaian Boxer in the 1940s, 50s and 60s)

James Barnor is now based in London. He’s been there since 1994.

Below are some of James Barnor’s photos:





We salute you, James Barnor.

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