Josiah Martin was a pioneering educator and photographer in the late 19th century, best known for his photographs of lake Rotomahana and Mount Tarawera, as well as for his images of Maori. Martin emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s, along with his wife Caroline and their infant daughter. In 1874 Martin started a private school in Auckland, which later became the Grafton District School, and in 1875 opened the Auckland Model Training School with the Reverend E. Brown, located in the Old Choral Hall, Symonds Street (now a part of the Auckland University campus). Martin was a founding member of the Auckland School Teachers’ association in 1873, a group who advocated for the reform of education in New Zealand, mainly through the introduction of a national, government-approved educational system. This goal was ultimately achieved in 1877—prior to this date, education in New Zealand was a largely private and community-driven affair.
From 1879 onwards, Martin concentrated primarily on photography rather than teaching, due to his failing health. In that year, Martin travelled to London, where he was introduced to the then-revolutionary “dry-plate” process, an early form of silver gelatin photography. This process was both more convenient and more sensitive than the old “wet-plate” collodion process, resulting in shorter exposure times and greater freedom of movement for the photographer. Realising the commercial possibilities of this new technology, Martin operated a number of photographic businesses in central Auckland, selling portraits, lantern slides and stereoscopic pictures. In addition to being a member of the Auckland Photographic Club and a founding member of the Auckland Society of the Arts, Martin was a fellow of the Geographical Society of London, and often lectured on scientific topics to a general audience.