8 OCTOBER 2018
RASHKB Event: China and Siam through the lens of John Thomson
Speaker: Betty Yao MBE
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Venue: Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD
Cost: £8 per member or guest, to include refreshments
Lunch: An optional self-paying lunch will be arranged at 12:45 p.m. at Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street, London NW1 2PA (corner of North Gower Street.) Tel: 020 7388 0604.
Booking: Please complete booking form and mail to Paul Bolding with your cheque or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 020 7684 5811.
The first London exhibition devoted to the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) and his photography in Asia was shown from 12 April-22 June 2018 at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS. Thomson’s photography of China, Siam (Thailand) and Cambodia was widely praised by his peers and continues to enthuse new audiences today. The images are from newly discovered negatives held at the Wellcome Library, London.
John Thomson (1837–1921) was a Scottish photographer and writer who set off for Asia in 1862. Over the next ten years he undertook numerous journeys photographing countries including Siam, Cambodia and various provinces of China. Photographs from these journeys form one of the most extensive records of any region taken in the nineteenth century. The range, depth and aesthetic quality of John Thomson’s vision mark him out as one of the most important travel photographers.
Thomson travelled East as a professional photographer only two decades after the invention of photography. Working with the wet collodion process he travelled with cumbersome crates, glass negatives, a portable dark room, as well as highly flammable and poisonous chemicals. It took sheer perseverance and energy, through difficult terrain, to document regions where previously unseen by westerners. It is particularly remarkable that Thomson was able to make photographs of such beauty and sensitivity.