Merlin emigrated to Australia in 1849, and by 1866 he established himself as a traveling photographer, working under the trade name of American and Australian Photographic Company. In 1871 he was selected as an official photographer for the Victorian-New South Wales Eclipse Expedition to the tropics of northern Queensland.
Merlin hired Charles Bayliss as an assistant in his work in the gold field of the Hill End/Tambaroora district in New South Wales, where he met Holtermann, about 1872. Holtermann appointed him as photographer for a traveling exposition that he had planned to illustrate the sights of New South Wales and Sydney. Merlin died of potassium cyanide poisoning, a result of his work with the collodion wet-plate process.
Beyond photography, Merlin's talents extended to the field of Journalism. He wrote many articles for the Australian Town and Country Journal, accompanied by engravings based on his photographs.
Quotes from others about the person
Andrew Hooper of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology says of Merlin's work: "The thousands (of images) taken in the Tambaroora district are distinctive in their eye for detail and wry social commentary."
Little is known of Merlin's personal life. It seems that in 1863, at the age of 33, he returned to England where he married to Louisa Foster. The couple had four children. After Merlin's death his wife and children returned to England.