China - Through the Lens of John Thomson

Manchu bride - black and white photograph by John Thomson

FIRST Edinburgh exhibition of master Photographer John Thomson

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The first Edinburgh exhibition devoted to the Scottish photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) and his photography in China will be shown from 30 September 2021 to early June 2022 at the James Watt Centre, Heriot Watt University.  Thomson’s photography of China was widely praised by his peers and continues to enthuse new audiences today. This exhibition commemorates the centenary of his death and forms part of Thomson’s alma mater, Heriot Watt University’s bi-centennial celebrations. 

The exhibition contains 94 black and white prints from Thomson’s China collection and is on display in the James Watt Centre at Heriot Watt’s Riccarton Campus until early June 2022.  Access is free and visitors to the University are very welcome but opening hours vary and due to COVID restrictions booking and a negative lateral flow test are essential.

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Virtual Talk: John Thomson: Intrepid Traveller and the Survival of his Photographic Collection

Wednesday, 30th March, 7pm on Zoom, free (booking essential)

John Thomson’s ground-breaking work in Asia established him as a pioneer of photojournalism and one of the most influential photographers of his generation. His collection of glass negatives travelled back with him to London in 1872.

Exhibition curator Betty Yao MBE will explore his photographic work during his decade in Asia as well as his career after his turn to the UK. She will discuss Thomson’s contributions to street photography as well as his pivotal role in the transformation of travel photography. She will share her personal journey to the discovery of his collection and the many twists and turns that ensured its survival.

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