Burton Brothers was a Dunedin-based photographic studio which was active during the second part of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. The studio was founded by English immigrant Walter John Burton in 1866, as The Grand Photographic Saloon and Gallery. He was joined by his brother Alfred, also a photographer, two years later. Walter worked in Dunedin producing portrait photography, while Alfred travelled around the country, photographing landscapes using a specially-constructed van with a collapsible roof that functioned as a mobile darkroom. Alfred Burton in particular has come to be regarded as one of New Zealand’s most significant nineteenth-century photographers, particularly for his series Through the King Country with a camera: a photographer’s diary, an early documentary record of Maori communities in the area, shot in the aftermath of the New Zealand Wars. He is also known for his photographs of Fiordland and of the Pink and White Terraces both before and after the eruption of Mt. Tarawera.
The brothers’ partnership came to an end in 1877, with Alfred retaining ownership of the business. Although an accomplished portrait photographer, Walter Burton suffered from alcoholism, and committed suicide in 1880, possibly by ingesting darkroom chemicals. Alfred Burton retired from photography in 1898, but his employees Thomas Muir and George Moodie continued to operate under the Burton Brothers name until 1916.