James Barnor began, like many of his contemporaries on the continent, by setting up a photography studio that was visited by general public as well as dignitaries. Working for the Daily Graphic, as their first photojournalist, and Drum magazine, the influential anti-apartheid journal for lifestyle and politics, his career developed rapidly. After moving to the UK in 1959, Barnor studied photography at Medway College of Art in Kent and continued to work on commissions for Drum, in London, shooting multinational models for its covers. His portraits depict the self-assurance and individualistic fashion trends that dominated both in London and Accra.
Barnor introduced colour photography processing facilities to Ghana in 1969, as a representative for Agfa Gevaert. His work has been exhibited internationally; most recently his monumental touring exhibition Ever Young with Autograph ABP, featuring new prints made from original, digitally preserved negatives, as well as vintage photographs from the late 1940s to early 1970s, toured the UK and USA. His work is in collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate, and Government Art Collection — all London, UK.