Alfred Henry Burton (1834 – 1914) is considered one of New Zealand's most important nineteenth century photographers.
Burton was born in Leicester, England. His father, John Burton, was a prominent photographer and his firm John Burton and Sons was patronised by Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Family.
Burton emigrated to New Zealand in 1868 on the request of his brother Walter John Burton. Walter had set up a photographic studio in Dunedin but inundated with work asked Alfred to join him. Burton travelled extensively within New Zealand for the firm, now called Burton Brothers and built up a strong portfolio of landscape images for the business. He made frequent trips to Fiordland, the Southern Lakes and South Westland.
Despite their initial success, in 1877 Alfred and Walter's partnership came to an acrimonious end. Walter left to visit Europe to acquaint himself with new photographic developments and Alfred took over the firm, employing other talented photographers such as George Moodie and Thomas Muir.
In 1884 Burton travelled to the Pacific Islands, including Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga and photographed local people and scenes of village life. In 1885 Burton journeyed into the King Country of New Zealand. This trip occurred soon after end of the New Zealand Wars and before the Maori of the region had become used to being photographed. This series of photographs is considered some of Burton's best work. In 1886 Mount Tarawera erupted, causing loss of life and burying the famous New Zealand tourist attraction the Pink and White Terraces. Burton visited the sites soon after the eruption and rephotographed regions he had previously photographed before the eruption.
Burton continued to travel throughout New Zealand in the 1880s photographing for the Burton Brothers firm. The firm developed strong distribution channels for prints of their work and prints and postcards produced from these photographic series were available commercially through agents and catalogues for contemporary travellers' albums and ethnographic collections. Prints of the work of Burton Brothers are still popular today and original prints are sold at fine art auctions.
Burton retired from photography in 1898. In 1901 his only son, Henry Burton, also a photographer for the firm, was killed when he fell from a horse. Alfred never touched a camera again, but devoted himself to amateur dramatics which he loved. He died in 1914.