John Thomson is one of 19th century’s greatest photographers, a pioneer of photojournalism.

The FIRST London exhibition of China and Siam: Through the Lens of John Thomson opens 13 April 2018 and runs through to 23 June. The exhibition covers a decade of Thomson’s photographic work in Asia from 1862 to 1872 and is curated from the renowned collection of glass negatives at the Wellcome Library, London.

This follows an acclaimed international exhibition tour to 20 museums, seen by over 920,000 visitors worldwide.

Venue: Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Dates: from 13 April to 23 June 2018



Watch the exhibition trailer below


Public Lectures

michael wood lanterns

Michael Wood lecture Thursday 17 May, 6pm

The Chinese photographs of John Thomson (1837-1921)

Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Historian and filmmaker Michael Wood reflects on Thomson’s amazing and moving images, the greatest photographic record of the people of Late Qing dynasty China and the role they played in presenting daily life in China to the Victorian public.



Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian, credit John CairnsRichard Ovenden lecture Thursday 14 June, 6pm

John Thomson: Master Photographer

DLT Lecture Theatre at SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Richard Ovenden is Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford. His book John Thomson (1837 – 1921) Photographer, published two decades ago, remains one of the most authoritative works on John Thomson.

The lecture will explore the life and work of one of the greatest innovators in the history of the photography. John Thomson was the first to photograph the ruins of Angkor Wat, the first Western photographer to travel extensively in the interior of China, and the first photojournalist to document the lives of everyday people on the streets of Victorian London. His life and work will be set in context and will focus on the major contributions he made to the establishment of photography as one of the great modern means of communication.




Study Day 7 June

John Thomson:  Reframing materials, images and archives

Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE

Academics, curators, and practitioners will present their research on themes such as production, reproduction, circulation, exhibition and the archival value of John Thomson’s work.



John Thomson Images from:

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