16 September 2010 6.30-8.30pm, Rivington Place, London
Autograph ABP presents two major photographic exhibitions: James Barnor’s street and studio portraits from the late 1940s to the 1970s, in Ghana and England, and the W.E.B. Du Bois collection of portraits compiled for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. Both aim to explore the notion of the photographic archive in relation to visual politics of race, representation and difference, as well as the question of modernity within post-colonial and transatlantic perspectives on photography in the 21st century.
James Barnor’s archive was produced during a career that started in 1949. It covers a remarkable period in history, bridging continents and photographic genres as it creates a transatlantic narrative marked by his passionate interest in people and cultures. Many of his works will be shown for the first time in the UK.
Through the medium of portraiture, Barnor’s photographs represent societies in transition: Ghana moving towards its independence and London becoming a cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis. The exhibition showcases vintage and contemporary prints from Barnor’s photographic studio Ever Young, fashion portraits in glorious colour, as well as portraits of luminaries, such as Kwame Nkrumah and Mohammad Ali, many commissioned for Drum magazine.
Fifty years earlier, W.E.B. Du Bois, the leading black intellectual and civil rights activist, and Thomas J. Calloway, lawyer and educator, strategically employed 363 photographs in the American Negro Exhibit. The Paris Albums 1900 present a selection of 200 portraits compiled for their photographic album entitled Types of American Negroes, Georgia, U.S.A. Retrospectively, Du Bois' remarkable collection of photographs can be read as the origins of a visual construction of a new African-American identity. As such, it provides an extraordinary insight into the conditions of black culture at the end of the 19th century, only 35 years after the abolition of slavery.
Ranging in genre from mug shot aesthetic to bourgeois theatrical portrait, Du Bois’ intention was to produce a comprehensive, alternative view of the black subject, in his own words ‘an honest straightforward exhibit of a small nation of people, picturing their life and development without apology or gloss, and above all made by themselves.’ One-hundred and ten years later and exhibited for the first time in the UK, Autograph ABP presents a selection from this important archive to re-examine the critical question of representation.
The exhibition Ever Young: James Barnor emerges as a direct result of archival research made possible by a four year archive project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), entitled Archive and Research Centre for Culturally Diverse Photography, opening in 2011.
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