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John Thomson (14 June 1837 - 7 October 1921)

was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures. His photographs are regarded as a classic work of social documentary which laid the foundations for photo journalism.
In April 1862, Thomson left Edinburgh for Singapore, beginning a ten year period spent traveling around the Far East. He established a studio in Singapore, taking portraits of European merchants, but also developed an interest in local peoples and places. He traveled extensively throughout the mainland territories of Malaya and the island of Sumatra, exploring the villages and photographing the native peoples and their activities.
After visiting Ceylon and India from October to November 1864 to document the destruction caused by a recent cyclone, Thomson sold his Singapore studio and moved to Siam. After arrival in Bangkok in September 1865, Thomson undertook a series of photographs of the King of Siam and other senior members of the royal court and government. Thomson embarked on the first of his major photographic expeditions at Angkor, deep in the Cambodian jungle, where Thomson extensively documented the vast site, producing some of the first known photographs of what is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thomson then moved on to Phnom Penh and took photographs of the King of Cambodia and other members of the Cambodian Royal Family.
In 1868 Thomson established a studio in Hong Kong and spent the next four years photographing the people of China and recording the diversity of Chinese culture. Thomson traveled throughout China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the cities of Peking and Shanghai, the Great Wall in the north, and deep into central China.
Thomson's travels in China were often dangerous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His subject matter varied enormously: from humble beggars and street people to Mandarins, Princes and senior government officials; from remote monasteries to Imperial Palaces; from simple rural villages to magnificent landscapes.
Thomson returned to Britain in 1872. Over the coming years he proceeded to lecture and publish, presenting the results of his travels in the Far East. His publications started initially in monthly magazines and were followed by a series of large, lavishly illustrated photographic books.
He went on to become a fashionable Mayfair portrait photographer of High Society, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881.