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James Barnor at Saint Laurent, Rive Droite
James Barnor, courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Feronnière

Saint Laurent spotlights James Barnor’s seminal afromodernist portraits

A new exhibition of the 93-year-old Ghanaian photographer’s work at the label’s Rive Droite stores is ushered in via a conversation with Campbell Addy

Back in 2020, it was the Ghanaian photographer James Barnor that encouraged Campbell Addy to put together his debut monograph, Feeling Seen. “James implored me to exhibit, exhibit, exhibit,” Addy told Dazed last year. “He only got notoriety in his 80s, and he says, even if it was ten years ago, he’d have more energy to enjoy it and to really have his work seen.” That being said, Barnor is still making the most of his time in the spotlight at 93, and a new exhibition at Saint Laurent’s Rive Droite stores in Paris and Los Angeles is proof of that fact.

Born in Ghana in 1929, Barnor made his name as the country’s first photojournalist, immortalising its fight for independence during the 1950s from his famed Ever Young studio in Accra. In the 1960s, he moved to London, and made major cultural contributions through his work with the South African magazine Drum.

Invited to exhibit at Saint Laurent’s boutique stores-slash-exhibition spaces by Anthony Vaccarello, Barnor displays around twenty monochrome and colour photographs that paint portraits of both famous figures and anonymous subjects. The result is a vivid and exciting document of a visual universe suffused with Afro-modernist thinking.

To mark the opening of the exhibition, Barnor was also reunited with Campbell Addy to discuss the beginnings of his career, his thoughts on fashion photography, the pros and cons of black and white versus colour photography, and the responsibility of creatives to empower future generations. 

Watch the conversation unfold – and inter-generational dialogue play out in real time – in the video below. Visit the gallery above to see some of Barnor’s work currently on display at Saint Laurent Rive Droite in Paris and Los Angeles.

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