Asia: Through the Lens of John Thomson

Scottish photographer and travel writer, John Thomson (1837-1921), set off for Singapore in 1862 and in the next 10 years he undertook several major journeys photographing regions of Siam (Thailand), Cambodia and China.

Nowadays we can take numerous photos in the space of one minute, however, in the nineteenth century it was a risk. A risk of going to a country that is yet to open up to the rest of the world. A risk of hurting one’s back to carry around heavy cameras. A risk of intoxication from dangerous chemicals to develop the film on the spot.

2021 commemorates the centenary of Thomson’s death.  There is an exhibition of his China photographs at Heriot Watt University, his alma mater. Historic Environment Scotland has honoured him by erecting a plaque at his childhood home in Old Town Edinburgh.

Exhibition curator Betty Yao MBE will discuss Thomson’s  life, career, legacy and the enduring appeal of his photographs in this digital age.