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David Puttnam

Lord Puttnam & John Thomson at SOAS

Lord Puttnam to open John Thompson Exhbition

22 February, 2018


Old Cantonese Woman


Lord Puttnam is looking forward to opening the ‘Through the Lens of John Thomson” exhibition at the Brunei Gallery|SOAS on Thursday 12th April 2018. This will be the first exhibition devoted to the Scottish photographer and writer John Thompson, who travelled around Asia during the 1860s and 1870s, photographing the people and communities he encountered along the way. The pictures that he took while on his various journeys now form one of the most extensive photographic records of Siam (Thailand), China and Cambodia in the nineteenth century. The exhibition combines some of Lord Puttnam's greatest passions then: photography and history, and also South-East Asia, a region he has been deeply involved with for several decades.  

John 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.

King Mongkut Rama IV

His collection of 700 glass plates travelled back with Thomson to Britain in 1872 and since 1921 has been housed and expertly preserved at the Wellcome Library, London. These 150-year-old glass negatives are in excellent condition allowing the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery|SOAS to showcase very large, in some cases life-size, prints. The photographs will be exhibited alongside a selection of Qing robes, textiles and Siamese court objects.

Admission to the exhibition is free and its runs from  13 April – 23 June 2018. More information can be found here: http://www.johnthomsonexhibition.org/


Angkor Wat