Cantonese woman 1868-72, captioned "Woman of the working class", John Thomson
John Thomson (1837-1921) was an amazing Scottish photographer that we can thank for a treasure of excellent photographs from a very early era of China photography. He made numerous trips through large parts of the mainland, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan during the period 1868-1872. He was also a pioneer of photojournalism, producing images of excellent quality, emotion and range.
Thomson's travels in China were often perilous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His expeditions were also especially challenging because he had to transport his bulky wooden camera, many large, fragile glass plates, and potentially explosive chemicals. He photographed in a wide variety of conditions and often had to improvise because chemicals were difficult to acquire. 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.