Though his original aim was to be a landscape painter, Barker worked his entire career as a photographer. Settling in Niagara, New York, in 1862, he opened Barker’s Stereoscopic View Manufactory and Photograph Rooms, marketing views, as well as curios and souvenirs, of a natural wonder that embodied the power and optimism associated with America.
By the mid-1880s spectacular images of the Falls were his trademark. They were composed for dramatic effect: a darkened sky, the contrast of churning white water with dark rocks, and an emphasis on tremendous scale. When appropriate, he retouched or added details with pen or pencil, such as the rock in the foreground of Niagara in Summer, from Below. Displayed in his variety store gallery and purchased as art or memento, the photographs were shipped to all parts of the world.
Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)