James Barnor: ‘If I have photographed a legend, then I’m a legend too’

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I’m James Barnor from Accra, Ghana and I’ve been photographing almost all the time since I can remember. Starting in 1946, 1947 when someone gave me a Baby Brownie.

James Barnor started his photographic career 75 years ago. He was Ghana’s first international press photographer as well as running a successful studio. Now aged 91, his artwork is the subject of an exhibition at Serpentine Galleries in London, showcasing years of photos from his life in Ghana and London.

One photo from the collection, taken in 1966 in a gym at Earl’s Court London is of boxing legend, Mohammed Ali.

‘Mohammed Ali was aggressive looking but I found out that I could have asked him to do anything for me. Like, ‘do it again’ or ‘stand here’ or ‘do that’, he would’ve done it. But I didn’t say w word to him all through the one hour I was with him in the gym. I said, if I have photographed the legend himself, then I’m also a legend.’

A lifetime photographer, James Barnor has not been phased by the changing digital times. In fact, he’s embraced it.

‘Now I can use digital and I can do anything modern which pleases me. The changes are tremendous but I feel proud that I connect to the dinosaurs of photography, those who had their big cameras and they took photographs and they developed on plates and so on, and today’s digital.’

‘And I feel very proud.’

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