George Barker was born in 1844 in London, Ontario, Canada. At the early age of 13, he began working for James Egan, one of Ontario's earliest photographers. Five years later, the ambitious 18-year-old opened his own studio. However, business fell short of expectations, and so the restless young man began searching for opportunities elsewhere. On a trip to Niagara Falls, New York, he became acquainted with a fellow photographer from his hometown. A decade earlier, Platt D. Babbitt had relocated to Point View, which as the name implies, provided him with a perfect vantage point of both falls. He hired Mr. Barker as an apprentice in July 1863.
By 1865, Mr. Barker felt accomplished enough to once again open his own studio. Within the next few years, he established himself as one of the industry's foremost large format photographers. His majestic stereographs of Niagara Falls transformed the popular landmark into a visual icon. Mr. Barker also captured images of the Falls as they became increasingly victimized by environmental neglect and commercial exploitation. For his efforts, he received 11 U.S. and foreign first prize awards, which he proudly advertised on the reverse sides of his cabinet card-size stereo views in six languages. A fire on February 7, 1870 destroyed Mr. Barker's business, but his catalogue of more than 800 stereo negatives was miraculously recovered.
Mr. Barker's views of Niagara Falls were featured in several landscape compilations, including American Scenery - Niagara Falls and Stereoscopic Gems of American Scenery, and his heliotypes illustrated James T. Gardner's 1880 Special Report of the New York State Survey of the Preservation of the Scenery of Niagara Falls, and Fourth Annual Report of the Triangulation of the State. He also became a recognized authority on stereo photography, as he proved in an issue of The British Journal of Photography, in which he declared, "There is no comparison between the refracting and reflecting stereoscopes." According to Mr. Barker, there were advantages and disadvantages to each, and should be chosen according to photographic intent, e.g., desired size of photograph, type of lenses being used, and mounting preferences.
In later years, Mr. Barker's name was associated with stereo views of various attractions throughout Florida, Colorado, and California. However, some historians maintain these were not original tintypes, but were either pirated or purchased by the photographer. George Barker died at Niagara Falls, New York on November 27, 1894, an apropos setting for a man described in various obituaries as "the eminent photographer of Niagara Falls." Shortly thereafter, the Underwood & Underwood stereoscopic firm obtained his impressive collection of negatives.
1885 The American Garden, Vol. VI (Chicago, E. H. Libby), p. 185.
1874 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. XXI (London: Henry Greenwood), p. 130.
2012 The Daguerreian Society Quarterly, Vol. XXIV (Cecil, PA: The Daguerreian Society), p. 8.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 113-114.
2012 George Barker (1844-1894) (URL: http://www.tillouantiques.com/george-barker-1844-1894).
2015 George Barker, Niagara Falls (URL: http://www.ago.net/george-barker-niagara-falls).
2015 George Barker Photographer St. Augustine (URL: http://www.drbronsontours.com/bronsongeorgebarker.html).
1998 Niagara Falls (Vol. II) by Daniel M. Dumych (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), p. 32.
2015 Niagara- The Waters Falling as They Fell a Thousand Years Ago (URL: http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?id=370708&b=1).
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