Join the Serpentine for Portraits for the Future, a unique virtual event celebrating visionary photographer James Barnor’s practice and his influence on generations of artists, looking forward to his major survey show at the Serpentine later this year.
Hosted by Clara Amfo, the event features James Barnor in conversation with photographer Tyler Mitchell and Hans Ulrich Obrist; music by Ebo Taylor; poetry by Nii Ayikwei Parkes; a look through the archives with Black in the Day; contributions from Sir David Adjaye, Naomi Campbell and British Vogue Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful; plus instructions, reflections and tips from some of the most exciting photographers working today, including Liz Johnson Artur, Samuel Fosso, Eric Gyamfi, Zohra Opoku, Dayanita Singh, Ming Smith and Tourmaline.
Portraits for the Future brings together artists, photographers, musicians and leading cultural figures inspired by Barnor’s visionary work to explore how his vision is a crucial guide for the future.
Curated & Produced by
Portraits for the Future is curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine, Kostas Stasinopoulos, Assistant Curator, Serpentine and Bianca Manu, Curatorial Associate. Produced by Holly Shuttleworth, Producer and Duncan Welsh, Head of Events.
BSL/English Translator by Nadia Nadarajah.
BSL/English Interpreter by Anna Kitson.
GFX by Koo Bhangra, Unloved.
Global online broadcast by Jackshoot.
Producer for Jackshoot, Alex Bertschin.
Editor for Jackshoot Robert Regan.
With special thanks to:
Sir David Adjaye & Adjaye Associates, Accra, Clara Amfo, Black in the Day (Tania Nwachukwu & Jojo Sonubi), Naomi Campbell, Lizzie Carey-Thomas, Edward Enninful, Samuel Fosso, Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière & Maison CF, Isabella Seniuta, Eric Gyamfi, Liz Johnson Artur, Francis Kokoroko, Awa Konaté, Laraaji, Róisín McVeigh, Tyler Mitchell, Zohra Opoku, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jo Paton, Lucia Pietroiusti, Dayanita Singh, Ming Smith, Ebo Taylor and The Saltpond City Band, Tourmaline.
About James Barnor
Barnor inspires generations of photographers around the world. His career as a studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer spans six decades and records major social and political changes in England and Ghana. Born in 1929, James Barnor established his famous Ever Young studio in Accra, Ghana in the early 1950s, capturing a nation on the cusp of independence. In 1959 he arrived in London, furthering his studies and continuing assignments for influential South African magazine Drum, which reflected the spirit of the era and the experiences of London’s burgeoning African diaspora. He returned to Ghana in the early 1970s to establish the country’s first colour processing lab while continuing his work as a portrait photographer and embedding himself in the music scene.
- Sir David Adjaye
Sir David Adjaye OBE is a Ghanaian-British architect who has received international acclaim for his impact on the field. In 2000, he founded Adjaye Associates, which today operates globally, with studios in Accra, London and New York and projects spanning across the globe. In 2017, Adjaye was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME Magazine. Most recently, Adjaye was announced the winner of the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal.
- Clara Amfo
Clara Amfo is a dynamic and bold broadcaster best known for her 10am – 1pm BBC Radio 1 show, home of the world-famous Live Lounge. Amfo’s show has seen her interview some of the world’s most celebrated artists, and she is also host to her own successful podcast, ‘This City’. Amfo has hosted ITV2’s BRIT Awards coverage and is on the judging panel for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
- Liz Johnson Artur
Liz Johnson Artur (b. 1964, Bulgaria) lives and works in London. Her practice includes photography, film and installation works, capturing and engaging with people for more than 30 years. She has exhibited internationally, with solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the South London Gallery in London, both in 2019. A new solo exhibition will take place at FOAM in Amsterdam in autumn 2021.
- Black in the Day
Black in the Day is a submission based archive documenting the lives and experiences of Black people in the U.K. over the decades. Founded by Tania Nwachukwu and Jojo Sonubi, Black in the Day aims to collect, preserve and celebrate the stories that shape who we are today.
- Naomi Campbell
International supermodel, activist and philanthropist Naomi Campbell has fronted the covers of more than 1000 magazines. She was the first black model to appear on the cover of TIME magazine, French and Russian Vogue, and the first British black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue. In 2019, Naomi was honoured by the British Fashion Council with a Fashion Icon Award in celebration of her outstanding contribution to the industry.
- Edward Enninful
Edward Enninful is Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue and European Editorial Director of Vogue.
Enninful took over as Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue in August 2017. Prior to that Edward was Creative and Fashion Director of the American magazine W since 2011. In 2019, Enninful was honored by The Daily Front Row for Magazine of the Year at the Fashion Media Awards, named in the Evening Standard’s top 20 most influential Londoners of 2019 and awarded the Business of Fashion Global VOICES Award. In 2020, Edward received the People Honouree Award at the 2020 British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards for his outstanding contribution to diversity.
- Samuel Fosso
Born in Kumba in Cameroon in 1962, Samuel Fosso fled Nigeria and the Biafra War, and sought refuge in Bangui in the Central African Republic. He opened his own commercial photography studio there at the age of 13. Alongside his portrait work Fosso began a series of self-portraits, a mode of representation that remains central to his practice. Staging his personal identity, his work gradually took on a universal social and political dimension, as seen in his celebrated series “TATI” (1997) and “African Spirits” (2008).
- Eric Gyamfi
Eric Gyamfi (b. 1990, Ghana) is a photographer living and working in Ghana. He is currently pursuing an MFA at the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Gyamfi is also a fellow at the Photographers’ Master Class (Khartoum, Sudan 2016 and Nairobi, Kenya 2017; Johannesburg, South Africa 2018).
Gyamfi has a background in documentary photography. His interest in the medium and forms of the photograph(ic), underlies his experiments with hybrid digital and analogue/chemical processes. His recent interests revolve around the affinities between photography and the weather, through an enquiry into plant chemistry.
- Tyler Mitchell
Tyler Mitchell is a photographer and filmmaker working across many genres to explore and document a new aesthetic of Blackness. In 2018, he made history as the first Black photographer to shoot a cover of American Vogue for Beyoncé’s appearance in the September issue. The following year, a portrait from this series was acquired by The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for its permanent collection. In 2020 Mitchell was announced as the recipient of the Gordon Parks Fellowship, which will support a new project that reflects and draws inspiration from Parks’ central themes of representation and social justice. Mitchell’s fellowship will culminate in an exhibition of the new works at the Gordon Parks Foundation Gallery in Pleasantville, NY.
- Zohra Opoku
Zohra Opoku (b. 1976, German/Ghanaian; based in Accra) examines the politics of personal identity formation through historical, cultural, and socio-economic influences, particularly in the context of contemporary Ghana. Her photography is expressed through screen-printing and alternative photo processing on varieties of natural fabrics. Her practice centers around textiles and traditional Ghanaian dress codes, which have been an inherent part of the country’s identity and industry throughout West Africa’s complex history. She was a 2020 artist-in-residence at Black Rock in Dakar, Senegal and has exhibited internationally including at the Nubuke Foundation, Centre for Contemporary Art, !Kauru Contemporary Art from Africa, Southbank Centre Hayward Gallery and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
- Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian-British writer, editor and socio-cultural commentator. He is the author of Tail of the Blue Bird, The Makings of You and The Geez. He was selected as one of Africa’s 39 most promising authors of the new generation for the World Book Capital Africa 39 Project in 2014. He splits his time between Ghana and Europe, where he produces literature events, teaches, and runs flipped eye publishing, a dynamic UK small press known for its pioneering role in nurturing new writers.
- Dayanita Singh
Dayanita Singh’s art uses photography to reflect and expand on the ways in which we relate to photographic images. Her recent works are a series of mobile museums that allow her images to be endlessly edited, sequenced, archived and displayed. Stemming from Singh’s interest in the archive, the museums present her photographs as interconnected bodies of work that are replete with both poetic and narrative possibilities. Publishing is also a significant part of the artist’s practice: in her books, often published without text, Singh extends her experiments on alternate forms of producing and viewing photographs.
Major solo exhibitions include: Museum Bhavan, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2017); Museum of Machines: Photographs, Projections, Volumes, MAST, Bologna (2016); Conversation Chambers Museum Bhavan, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2015); and Go Away Closer, Hayward Gallery, London and MMK, Frankfurt (2013-14).
- Ming Smith
Harlem-based, Detroit-born, Ming Smith attended the Howard University, Washington, DC. Ming Smith first became a photographer when she was given a camera, and was the first female member to join Kamoinge, a collective of black photographers in New York in the 1960s, working to document black life. Smith would go on to be the first black woman photographer to be included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art. In 2017, Smith was part of Soul of a Nation at Tate Modern, an exhibition realised in collaboration with Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges and The Broad. Her work was also featured in Brooklyn Museum’s We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85.
- Ebo Taylor
Ebo Taylor has been a vital figure on the Ghanaian music scene for over six decades. He is an all-time great of African music, now revered as one of the world’s most important Highlife, Afrofunk and Afrobeat musicians, composers, and arrangers. Taylor was very influential in the sound that emerged from Ghana in the 70s, creating his own, remarkable style.
Tourmaline is an artist, filmmaker, cultural producer, writer, and activist whose practice highlights the experiences of black, queer, and trans communities and their capacity to impact the world. By expanding the legacy of forgotten figures into our present moment and highlighting their minor yet impactful creative acts, she shifts our understanding of broader cultural histories and encourages a reconsideration of the mainstream contemporary narrative. Her work has been presented across the world including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn (2016, 2019); MoMA PS1, Long Island City (2019); The High Line, New York (2019); The Kitchen, New York (2018); The New Museum, New York (2017); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); MOCA, Los Angeles (2017); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2017); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago (2017).