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James Kobla (J.K.) Bruce-Vanderpuije

J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, was born in 1899 in James Town, British Accra. His early education was at the Accra Royal School, which held the distinction of being the Gold Coast’s first formal educational institution, established in 1672. During his time at school, the young J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije developed a keen interest in photography as a hobby. Following his formal education, he underwent training with the tutelage of J.A.C Holmes for a number of years. For a brief period, he was employed by the Accra Town Council, now known as the Accra Metropolitan Authority, where he quickly made a name for himself with his striking work.

Over the course of his seventy-year career, the influential photographer played a pivotal role in developing an authentic narrative and aesthetic of Africa through a non-colonial lens. Among the limited number of Ghanaian photographers who rose to prominence in the pre-independence era, his portfolio encompassed a wide spectrum of assignments and personal projects, including jobs from the government, corporate advertising campaigns, nation-shaping occurrences, and intimate depictions of everyday life. Through his meticulous documentation, he offered a diverse and abundant insight into the cultural tapestry of a nation. Comprising around 50,000 works, the photographer’s estate is still under the custodianship of the Deo Gratias studio in Accra. Established by J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije in 1922, the studio is presently overseen by his granddaughter, Kate Tamakloe.

In 1948 J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije photographed the British Head of Police Superintendent Colin Imray’s shooting of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey at the Christianborg crossroads, these photographs were later tended in as evidence for the crime committed. This event, which encouraged the anti-colonial movements to press the British government to institute a committee to investigate the shooting, is largely regarded as the catalyst for Ghana’s eventual independence in 1957, a moment which J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije also famously caught on camera at Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s speech at the Polo Grounds. Ultimately, J.K. Bruce- Vanderpuije not only photographed history but created it.

Selected works

J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije Achimota School Boxing Club 1933
Achimota School Boxing Club 1933
J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije Queenmother of Jamestown and her attendants, 1932
Queenmother of Jamestown and her attendants, 1932
J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije Accra Optimists Club, 1930s
Accra Optimists Club, 1930s

J.K. Bruce-Vanderpuije News

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