(WSYR-TV) — They say a photo speaks a thousand words, and one 19th century photojournalist proved that to be true.

CNY photographer George Barnard was a pioneer in the field of photojournalism, sharing photographs that opened the eyes of the public to what was really happening around the country. Curator of history at the Onondaga Historical Association Bob Searing has the story.

Barnard began his career in photography during the medium’s infancy, entering the field in 1842, just three years after Louis Daguerre invented the process (daguerreotype) of capturing images on silver-plated sheets of copper. He moved to Oswego in 1846 and opened a studio there.

In 1854, Barnard came to Syracuse. He set up a new studio in Hanover Square’s “Granite Building” where he produced the earliest known images of the city. In 1859, Barnard left Syracuse and moved to New York City. This fateful decision brought Barnard into the orbit of Matthew Brady, the most famous American photographer of the 19th century. Barnard worked for Brady in his studios in New York and in Washington D.C. In March 1861, Brady assigned Barnard to document Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. 

Over the course of the next four years, Barnard and his camera captured some of the most significant images of the carnage wrought by the war between the states. From the very first volunteer regiments arriving in Washington, to Bull Run and his work as the Army’s Chief Photographer documenting Sherman’s exploits in Georgia and his “March to the Sea,” Barnard produced some of the most iconic images of the war. In the process, he perfected the techniques he would employ in his documentation of the Great Chicago Fire, including his magnificent panoramic work.  

Barnard’s incredible photographic record became the definitive images of the war and of the disasters and were reproduced in stereographic form all across the world. 

Learn more of Central New York’s history at CNYHistory.org.