Josiah Martin was born to Josiah Sr. and Charlotte Bromley Martin in London, England on August 1, 1843. Shortly thereafter, his father traded in his blue-collar job as a melter for the more lucrative white-collar vocation as an insurance actuary. His namesake initially joined him in the insurance profession before becoming a moderately successful coal merchant. At the age of twenty, he married fellow Londoner Caroline Mary Wakefield on March 24, 1864. A few years later, with their infant daughter (the first of three daughters) in tow, the young family immigrated to New Zealand. Following a brief period as a gentleman farmer and the headmaster of a Maungaturoto school, Mr. Martin founded the Grafton District School, a private academy in which he presided as headmaster until 1874. By then, he had established himself as a pioneering educator, and within a year, he opened the Auckland Model Training school, the first institution of its kind in the region.
However, the implementation of a national educational system in New Zealand dampened Mr. Martin’s scholarly enthusiasm, and during a family visit to London, he learned about the recent development of the gelatin bromide photographic process at the Royal College of Chemistry. His interest in dry-plate photography and increasing health problems resulted in an abrupt career change, and Mr. Martin exchanged his textbooks for a camera. The shorter exposure times made photographing remote areas a much more attractive proposition, and Mr. Martin opened an Auckland studio with his partner William H. T. Partington, at the corner of Queen and Grey Streets. Believed to be the first ‘instantaneous’ photography firm in New Zealand, the portrait studio was an immediate and popular success, particularly within the burgeoning tourism market. After Mr. Partington left, Mr. Martin opened another studio on Queen Street, and eventually sold his portrait gallery to Charles Hemus.
Mr. Martin was a gifted portraitist who built his global reputation on his anthropological and topographical images. He produced stereographs and lantern slides, which were featured in his popular lectures. He later admitted photographing the Maori was a formidable challenge because of their spiritual aversion to being photographed. However, when Mr. Martin offered to pay his subjects for services rendered, they softened their stance consideably. The Maori lifestyle was celebrated in the famous series, The Old Order Changeth, in 1885, and several of these photographs were displayed in London’s Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886. Hiis views of the Mt. Tarawera volcano’s eruption were published that same year in the Auckland Evening Star. After opening several galleries in Auckland, Mr. Martin launched a field studio in the remote enclave of Rotorua in 1894. In this ‘Lake Country’ territory, Mr. Martin captured more than 300 portraits and landscape views of geysers and hot springs. He also took an active role in developing the New Zealand photographic industry, serving as a member of the Auckland Photographic Club, and was co-founder of the Auckland Society of Arts. Meanwhile, he served as editor of Sharland’s New Zealand Photographer, and was a frequent contributor to the Auckland Weekly News and the New Zealand Illustrated Magazine. Mr. Martin was an outspoken supporter of photographic copyrights to combat illegal reproduction of images in print publications without photographer compensation. He was also a fellow of the Geographic Society of London, and gave several lectures on the applications of the magic lantern.
Seventy-three-year-old Josiah Martin died at his Auckland home on September 29, 1916. In 1958, his daughters bequeathed their father’s voluminous collection of negatives to the Auckland Institute and Museum. Other photographs and prints exist in numerous public and private collections worldwide.
1901 British Journal of Photography, Vol. XLVIII (London: Henry Greenwood & Co. Ltd.), p. 441.
2002 Country of Writing: Travel Writing and New Zealand, 1809-1900 by Lydia Wevers (Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press), p. 185.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 899.
2018 Galleries of Maoriland: Artists, Collectors and the Maori World, 1880–1910 by Roger Blackley (Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press), pp. 16, 29, 43-44, 167.
2019 Josiah Martin (URL: https://bowerbankninow.com/josiah-martin).
2013 Josiah Martin, Auckland (URL: http://canterburyphotography.blogspot.com/2013/11/martin-joshua.html).
2019 Martin, Josiah (URL: https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m36/martin-josiah).
2006 Out of Time Maori & the Photographer 1860-1940 (Auckland, NZ: John Leech Gallery), p. 68.
2018 Tarawera Te Maunga Tapu (URL: https://ecitydoc.com/download/tarawera-resource_pdf), pp. 3, 11.
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