Martin was born in Fairfield, Alabama. His best known photograph document of the civil rights era is the March 1965 beating of marchers in the Selma to Montgomery march, known as “Bloody Sunday”, the event that greatly influenced the course of civil rights in the U.S. About the effect of photography on the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Spider, we could have marched, we could have protested forever, but if it weren't for guys like you, it would have been for nothing. The whole world saw your pictures. That's why the Voting Rights Act was passed."
Martin believed because of his small stature, just over five feet tall, that he was able to canvas through a crowd to get some of his best close-ups.
Martin’s photographs are on display in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. He was also published in Life and Saturday Evening Post. A selection of his work was exhibited in the Cannon Rotunda in Washington, D.C. in honor of all who sacrificed in the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery. Martin also exhibited in Agnes. He died by suicide in 2003 in Blount Springs, Alabama.
- Abbott, Valerie A. (2003-05-06). "Resolution # 684-03" (PDF). Regular Meeting of the Council of the City of Birmingham. Retrieved 2007-01-07.[dead link]
- "Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote". The Spider Martin Civil Rights Collection. Retrieved 2006-01-04.