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George N. Barnard

George Norman Barnard was born into a Connecticut farming family on December 23, 1819. His life drastically changed with the death of his father in 1826, and he spent his childhood living with relatives in a neighboring town and apprenticing in various family-owned businesses. In 1843, he married and the young couple relocated to Oswego, New York, where after a brief foray into the hotel industry he opened the town's first daguerreotype studio. Mr. Barnard enjoyed immediate success and made a comfortable living for his family well into the 1850s. He began exploring the possibilities of applying daguerreotyping to photojournalism, making plates of a dramatic local mill fire. But the problem was these images could not be reproduced at the time and could only be seen in exhibitions. In 1853, Mr. Barnard moved his studio to Syracuse and became an active member of the New York State Daguerreian Association. His earliest efforts mirrored those of his colleagues, producing plates that were little more than recreations of Old Masters' paintings. Like fellow photographer Mathew Brady, he applied either ink or paint to his plates to increase their aesthetic appeal.

Unfortunately, an economic downturn in 1857 forced Mr. Barnard to close his studio, but he quickly found work with Edward Anthony and began experimenting with stereographic landscapes. He also offered his services to Alexander Gardner and Mathew Brady, and while working at Mr. Brady's Washington, DC gallery, made several popular cartes-de-visites of prominent politicians and of President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inauguration. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Barnard became an important member of Mathew Brady's "Photographic Corps," and produced some of the first images of the Battle of Bull Run. The wet collodion process enabled him to develop photographs in an onsite makeshift darkroom.


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