Henry Walter Barnett

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Henry Walter Barnett
Henry Walter Barnett.jpg
Barnett c. 1894
Born Henry Walter Barnett
(1862-01-25)25 January 1862
St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia
Died 16 January 1934(1934-01-16) (aged 71)
Nice, France
Other names H. Walter Barnett
Occupation Photographer

Henry Walter Barnett (25 January 1862 – 16 January 1934), usually known as H. Walter Barnett, was an Australian photographer and filmmaker. Barnett was a prominent portrait photographer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, establishing the successful Falk studios in Sydney. Later in his career he was based in London, England, with studios at Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. Barnett became involved in filmmaking after meeting cinematographer Marius Sestier in 1896, and with Sestier made some of the first films shot in Australia.

Life and career[edit]

Barnett was born on 25 January 1862 in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, one of seven children[1] of English-born Jewish parents Lewis[nb 1] Barnett, a merchant, and his wife Alice Jacobs,[2] he left school at the age of 13 and began his photographic career as a studio assistant, later establishing a studio in Hobart, Tasmania with his business partner Harold Riise.[2] In 1884 he sold his share of the Hobart studio,[3] after which he travelled and worked variously in London and the United States, during his time in London he was employed by the society photographers W. & D. Downey, where he assisted in photographing the future King Edward VII.[2]

Henry Parkes, photographed by Barnett in 1893

In 1885 Barnett founded the Falk studios in Sydney,[2] at which he established himself as one of Australia's leading portrait photographers,[3] he opened a second studio in Melbourne in 1895.[2] He was known in particular for photographing stage stars and other celebrities; one of his best-known sitters was Sarah Bernhardt, who sat for him while visiting Australia in 1891. Other prominent visitors to Australia photographed by Barnett were Robert Louis Stevenson in 1893 and Mark Twain in 1896.[2] One of his most notable works was a photograph of Henry Parkes, in which according to Ennis (2004), Parkes "plays the role of a wise old man whose intense expression is evocative of a seer's".[4] Barnett married Hilda "Ella" Frances Clement Forbes in 1889.[3]

In 1896 Barnett met French cinematographer Marius Sestier, an agent of early filmmakers the Lumière brothers assigned to demonstrate their cinématographe abroad.[3] Barnett and Sestier began making films together, starting with a short film of passengers disembarking from the ship S.S. Brighton in Manly, which was the first film shot and screened in Australia.[5] They made approximately 19 films together in Sydney and Melbourne,[5] most notably a film of the 1896 Melbourne Cup horse race. Barnett directed the films while Sestier operated the cinématographe, and in the Melbourne Cup film Barnett is seen on camera encouraging spectators to wave their hats as the horses cross the finish line,[6] the Melbourne Cup film was premiered at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne on 19 November 1896.[7] It was covered in the Australian press, including The Age and The Bulletin, and has been cited as Australia's first film production.[8]

In 1897 Barnett relocated to London and established a photography studio at Hyde Park Corner, later adding a second studio in Knightsbridge,[3] he joined photographic society The Linked Ring in 1899,[6] was a founder member of the Professional Photographers Association (later the British Institute of Professional Photography) in 1901,[6] and was elected to the Royal Photographic Society council in 1903.[2] In 1904 he published a collection of photographs of his most notable sitters, titled A List of Well Known People Photographed by H. Walter Barnett. He exhibited a collection of photographs of British Armed Forces personnel of World War I in 1917, titled Warriors All.[9]

Barnett sold his London studios in 1920 and moved to Dieppe, France, where he maintained a keen interest in contemporary French art, he died in Nice on 16 January 1934, aged 71.[2]



  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography quotes his father's name as Louis.[1]


  1. ^ a b Neill, Roger (October 2006). "Barnett, Henry Walter (1862–1934)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hannavy, John, ed. (2008). Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. London, New York: Routledge. p. 116. ISBN 9780415972352. 
  3. ^ a b c d e De Serville, Paul H. (1979). "Barnett, Henry Walter (1862–1934)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Ennis, Helen (2004). Intersections: Photography, History and the National Library of Australia. Canberra: National Library of Australia. p. 115. ISBN 0642107920. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Jackson, Sally (1 September 2010). "Patineur Grotesque: Marius Sestier and the Lumière Cinématographe in Australia, September–November 1896". Screening the Past. La Trobe University. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Long, Chris; McKernan, Luke (February 2010). "Henry Walter Barnett". Who's Who of Victorian Cinema. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Sally (1 November 2013). "Melbourne Cup fashion, 1896". Australia: National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  8. ^ FitzSimons, Trish; Laughren, Pat; Williamson, Dugald (2011). Australian Documentary: History, Practices and Genres. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9780521167994. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "H Walter Barnett: Women of Note". National Portrait Gallery, London. 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 

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