The photographs of Joseph and David Barnett cover the early years of Johannesburg, its buildings and streets; gold mining, mainly on the Witwatersrand, but also as far as Barberton; events like the Jameson Raid in 1895, the Matabele Rebellion in 1896, the Queen Victoria Jubilee in 1897, and the South African War (Anglo Boer War) in 1899-1902; as well as personalities like Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger.
Joseph Barnett was born in 1861(?) in Brynmawr, Wales as one of 6 children of Barnett and Ellen Isaacs. He came to Johannesburg around 1888/9, where he started a photographic business in 1895, later joined by his brother David. Both brothers obtained contracts with periodical publications like the illustrated London journal "Black & White". Joseph Barnett died while on holiday in Wales and was buried at his birthplace on the 23 July 1897.
His brother David not only continued with the business Barnett & Co., but also took over Joseph's appointment as special correspondent of "Black and White", taking the photographic work of the brothers further. In the years to follow he contributed many of his pictures of the South African War (1899-1902), published by 'Black and White', and later launched a series of postcards in about 1902. David Barnett died at the age of 90 in 1964.