James Barnor, who grew up in Accra and now lives in London, got his start photographing sports celebrities like Muhammad Ali, leaders of Ghana’s independence movement, and Africans living in England (his first camera was a plastic point-and-shoot). Though he temporarily returned to Ghana to establish the first color-processing photo lab there, he made his name doing glamorous fashion photography. Drum was the name of one of Africa’s most popular magazines in the 60′s, and Barnor regularly shot its covers, photos of black models in quintessential English scenes: in front of a red telephone box, exiting a tube station, or surrounded by pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
More than that, his photos are a fuzzily poignant time capsule: a polaroid of England as its different ethnic groups ebbed and flowed, mixed and crossed. The first comprehensive exhibition of his street and studio work, called Ever Young, runs until November 27 at Autograph ABP in London.
After leaving Bushwick at the end of last August, I moved into the neighborhood of Crown Heights, a place I had heard stories about (the violent riots of the 90′s), but had never visited. My apartment there would be a haven for the next six months: a convenient point to local salons and shops and restaurants run by Arabs and Jews and blacks who always recognized your face; a part of a building full of welcoming Haitian and Latino neighbors; and an overheated shelter from the cold outside. I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots here.
Photo via The New Yorker
“We think ‘Athens-via-Brooklyn’ means something, and it does, but not what we need it to—and the same goes for the idea of hailing from Alabama. It probably has been assumed that Houck doesn’t talk much about where he grew up because he’s ashamed of it somehow, wary of it being the butt of every joke about the South but for the existence of Mississippi, always looking askance at how its past is irrevocably tangled up with his own. But although he admits he doesn’t go back enough, he’s not unproud of Alabama. Here’s to Taking It Easy may well be his Harvest, but he’s caught in the crossfires of Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous flamewar: He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and it’s breaking his back, to be sure, but goddamn, the skies are so blue. His departure wasn’t an exodus; he’s not an ex-pat. He’s just following a roadmap that he can only see one little bit of at a time.”
- From this lyrical profile of Matthew Houck in The Oxford-American
Baloji was in New York the weekend of July 4th, and his performance in the garden of a Brooklyn community center was mesmerizing.
The Congolese rapper and musician was on a low and playful key as he rapped and horsed around with his band, unexpectedly bellowing into a megaphone sometimes, which made the music sound even more wild. He swayed his hips and grinded the stage horizontally to the screams of the audience. Near the end, he performed a slowed-down version of my favorite song of his, “Karibu ya bintou.” The song was unrecognizable at first, the bass at a relaxed gallop and the strings being gently stroked, until the familiar verses kicked in. The crowd didn’t stop dancing.
Bungee jumping over the Nile River was supposed to make my own free fall into the future easier, as I left Uganda and again moved thousands of miles away. (To Cuba, another misadventure in and of itself). I was excited, but mainly scared. I leaned forward again on the platform, terrified, and thought about hilarious and complicated African and American friends, kind European neighbors, loyal Ugandan co-workers. I remembered cool late nights of vibrating night clubs and hot early mornings of motorbike rides through thick traffic. I could still taste the passion fruit juice from breakfast and feel the sting of last night’s mosquito bites.
Images from my first months in Uganda filled my head, too, of luscious coffee fields, generous strangers, and huge starchy meals. I didn’t know if I was ready to take a leap.
But I jumped. I screamed helplessly as I fell head first into the air at breakneck speed, the hillside and boulders flashing before my eyes as I bounced up and down, whirled around and around, coming impossibly close to the water before coming to a stop. I was out of breath, completely exhilarated and shocked. A bungee company employee, a frail, older Ugandan man, paddled over in a small boat to unhook me from the rope and pull me down. He smiled at my heavy breathing and disheveled clothes. Our eyes connected. It was time to go.