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  H. Walter Barnett

Photographer and world traveler Henry Walter Barnett was born to Lewis and Alice Jacobs Barnett on January 25, 1862 in St. Kilda, Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. His parents were London-born Jews who settled in Australia in the 1840s. At the age of 13, the junior Barnett became a studio apprentice to Robert Stewart, owner of Stewart & Co., which was at the time Melbourne's most successful photographic gallery. During his apprenticeship, Mr. Barnett met and befriended Australian artist Tom Roberts, who later became known as "the father of Australian landscape painting." Mr. Barnett was responsible for arranging the sale of his protege's first painting. In 1880, he entered into a commercial studio partnership with Harold Riise, but sold out to his partner after two years, seeking greater inspiration and experience. He embarked upon an extensive globetrotting journey, pausing in the occasional port to work with some of the world's leading photographers including Isaiah West Taber in San Francisco and Joseph W. Gehrig in Chicago. Settling in London, Mr. Barnett was hired as official court photographer for W. and D. Downey, which established his reputation as one of the United Kingdom's premier portraitists

Mr. Barnett made a triumphant return to his native Australia in 1885, opening Falk Studios in Sydney. His combination of vast experience and keen marketing abilities generated worldwide interest in Australian portrait photography. Mr. Barnett emphasized facial details unlike few photographers of the late-nineteenth century, accentuating bone structure and skin texture of his sitters. He quickly cornered the Australian portrait market with a staff of studio technicians that was unparalleled, and clients who were willing to pay hefty fees for a sitting with the master. He married Hilda (Ella) Clement Forbes on July 18, 1889, and soon the couple formed the center of Sydney's elegant artistic and social circle. His global recognition enabled Mr. Barnett to receive exclusive rights to make and market the portraits of such luminaries as actress Sarah Bernhardt, authors Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain, and New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes, the "father of the Australian Federation." In 1895, shortly after opening a studio in Melbourne, Mr. Barnett decided to visit London, and on his return voyage, he met Frenchman Marius Sestier, a cameraman with the Lumiere film company. He invited Mr. Sestier to join him in Sydney, where the duo collaborated on the first motion picture filmed in Australia.

By 1897, Mr. Barnett was back in London permanently and opened elaborate portrait studios in Hyde Park and Knightsbridge. His elite clientele included famed sculptor Auguste Rodin and King George V. His platinotypes were printed on special paper which could then be mounted in the mezzotint tradition. Those varnished glass negatives remained in pristine condition decades afterwards. Mr. Barnett was a founding member of the Professional Photographers Association, and retained memberships in The Linked Ring and Royal Photographic Society. His interest in modernism coincided with World War I, and in 1920, he sold his studio and moved to Dieppe, France, where he became deeply involved in the Modernist movement. Seventy-one-year-old H. Walter Barnett died in Nice, France on January 16, 1934.

2014 Australian Dictionary of Biography: Barnett, Henry Walter (1862–1934) (URL:

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 116-117.

2014 Features of the National Convention (URL:

2014 H. Walter Barnett: National Portrait Gallery (URL:

2004 Intersections by Helen Ennis (Canberra: National Library of Australia), p. 116.

2014 National Portrait Gallery (URL:

2014 Wikipedia (URL:

1900 Photograms of the Year (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 6.

1901 The Process Engraver's Monthly, Vol. VIII (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 143.

1898 The Process Photogram, Vol. V (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), p. 234.

1899 The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, Vol. XXVIII (London: Ingram Brothers), p. 258.

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2015-04-20 20:47:09

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