Joe Barnett was born at Hobart on 14 December 1892 the eldest son of Edward William Barnett and his wife Margaret, formerly Leach.
Barnett was a keen amateur photographer before turning professional in 1914 when he obtained a permit to photograph life at the Claremont Army Camp. Another also working there was John Watt Beattie.
Barnett tended to concentrate on individual soldiers. Just how many of the prints from this period have survived is unknown. Possibly some have survived in family albums or as post cards. Examples of photographs of groups of officers or soldiers which were printed and mounted have survived in collections.
In 1927 Joseph Barnett opened his own studio taking over the premises belonging to Edward Verrell at 115 Liverpool Street. The majority of his work was for Tasmanian and mainland newspapers though. In addition, he also undertook outdoor and view photography and produced postcards which were very popular with tourists.
With the outbreak of World War 2, Barnett once again photographed the soldiers as they prepared to go to war. Frequently visiting Brighton Army Camp.
In the mid to late 1960’s Joe Barnett, then an old man was still taking photographs, often at North Hobart Oval during the football season. He was well-known by the regular football crowd, taking photographs for The Mercury and possibly other newspapers. His longevity as a press photographer certainly qualifies him as the ‘doyen of Tasmanian press photographers’.
Joseph ‘Joe’ James Nathaniel Barnett died at Lenah Valley in mid May 1977. He was survived by his daughter Laura and son Edward.