Josiah Martin was born in London, England, on 1 August 1843 and, in 1864, married Caroline Mary Wakefield. They emigrated to New Zealand a few years later with an infant daughter and eventually settled in Auckland. Martin founded a private academy, where he was headmaster until 1874 and proved to be a gifted teacher but retired from the profession in 1879 due to failing health.
He then concentrated on photography. During 1879 he returned to Europe, and while in London studied the latest innovations in photographic techniques and processes. On his return to Auckland he opened a photographic business with a studio on the corner of Queen and Grey streets in partnership with W.H.T. Partington. After the partnership was dissolved he opened another studio in Queen Street, later selling the portrait business and transferring premises to Victoria Arcade. Martin visited the area of Tarawera and Rotomahana many times and was there on the eve of the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886; some of the photographs he took after the eruption were reproduced in the Auckland Evening Star. He also appears to have visited several Pacific Islands, including Fiji and Samoa, in 1898, and in 1901 travelled there with S. Percy Smith. He published an account of this trip in Sharland's New Zealand Photographer and also contributed articles and photographs to the Auckland Weekly News and the New Zealand Illustrated Magazine.
Martin gained an international reputation for his ethnological and topographical photographs. His work was exhibited in London at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 and he won a gold medal at the Exposition coloniale in Paris in 1889. He was also editor of Sharland's New Zealand Photographer for several years and lectured frequently, not only on photography but also on scientific subjects.
Josiah Martin died on 29 September 1916 at his home in Northcote, Auckland, aged 73. His photographs provide a record of changed landscapes and societies. Martin was one of the first photographers to realise the commercial potential of photography to encourage tourism, but he was also aware of the need for conservation of the landscape and of the role of photography in providing a documentary record.
202 x 152 mm. A view looking down from the slopes of Mt. Eden showing the city, Waitemata Harbour, the North Shore, and in the distance the island of Rangitoto. Photograph by Josiah Martin.