JOHN THOMSON - WINDOW TO THE EAST
John Thomson (1837-1921) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was one of the most important photographers in the 19th century and also a topographer, explorer and writer. As one of the earliest Western photographers travelling to the Far East, Thomson faithfully recorded what he saw of the Eastern world in the 19th century through his lens. His photographic works have become the most important social and cultural records and also made Thomson one of the pioneers of documentary photography.
The 19th century is a period of history marked with frequent exchanges and interactions between West and East. It is also a period of time full of surprises, excitement and shocks amidst cultural collisions. Each photograph taken by Thomson illustrates how a Westerner back then perceived and interpreted the mysterious Oriental world.
Thomson is reputed as one of the greatest documentary photographers. Demonstrating his keen observations and unique interpretations of social and geographic characteristics of a place, Thomson’s photographs mix the different aesthetics of Western and Eastern portraits, while combining the perspective and composition in Eastern landscape paintings. On his glass plate negatives, Thomson captured micro specimens of the tranquillity and profoundness of the Oriental world cultivated over thousands of years.
In 1871, John Thomson captured the images of Ta-kow (Takao, now Kaohsiung) Port via his camera on his trip to Formosa (Taiwan), leaving us beautiful early photographic records of Kaohsiung.
Thomson’s photographs of Formosa had tied his name closely with the early photographic images of Taiwan. Through his camera lens, the oriental and poetic images of Kaohsiung Port against a vast sky and ocean demonstrate a type of unique rhetoric of image aesthetics.
This exhibition displays totally 68 photographic works by Thomson of Formosa, China and South-east Asia, allowing viewers to travel back in time and experience the unique cultural and social facets of Asia over 100 years ago. This exhibition is the most comprehensive of its kind in Asia showcasing the photographs by Thomson on his journey XIX sec. to Asia.
Museo di Antropologia,
13 February - 24 May 2015