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China: Through the Lens of John Thomson (1868-1872) Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Aug 2010
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About the Author
John Thomson was born June 14th 1837, in Edinburgh, Scotland. After his schooling in the early 1850s he completed his photographic apprenticeship around 1858. In April 1862, Thomson set off for Singapore. There he opened his first photo studio and became a commercial photographer. During this period, he travelled extensively throughout Asia, photographing the native peoples and their activities. He is the author of several books including 'The Antiquities of Cambodia' (1867), 'Foochow and the River Min' (1873), 'Illustrations of China and its people' (1873), 'Street life in London' (1878) and 'Through China with a Camera' (1898). In 1881 he was appointed photographer to the British Royal Family by Queen Victoria. After retiring from his commercial studio in 1910, Thomson spent most of his time back in Edinburgh. In October 1921, Thomson died of a heart attack at the age of 84.
Top customer reviews
He later donated his work to the Wellcome Library in London, and this magnificent book of photographs was produced following the first exhibition of Thomson's work in China at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, in February-June 2011. It includes images from his trips to Beijing, Guangdong province, Fujian province and Hong Kong in late 1860s and early 1870s. It is a large format, lavishly produced book, and includes several bilingual English/Chinese introductory articles, 147 full page black and white photographs.
The bulk of the photographs are of Chinese people, both rich and poor, including many of women, whose seclusion usually made them impossible to reach. In addition, there are many images of local street life, including shops, travelling artisans, beggars, soldiers, monks and gamblers. These views of ordinary people demonstrate that Thomson's sympathies appeared to lie with the deprived and humble.
A delightful insight into late Qing China.
It shows the quality of Thomsons' work, using primitive equipment, in sometimes primitive conditions, but resolving incredible detail even in the largest prints, and despite 130 of damage inflicted on the glass negatives. My book of the year, despite it only being February.
Beautifully reproduced photographs in the book capturing all the quality of the prints at the exhibition. Thompson had an artist's eye leaving an important and fascinating visual history of China in the mid-nineteenth century. The modest damage to the glass negatives evident in the prints in no way detracts from the visual impact.
A window on a vanished world, captured soon after the dawn of photography; truely superb from both the photographic and historical perspective, a must have even if you have seen the exhibition.