Digital Commonwealth

John Thomson Photograph Collection, 1863

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives

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The Scotsman John Thomson is considered one of the fathers of social documentary photography and a pioneer in the photography of southeast Asia. Between 1861 and 1872, he traveled extensively in Asia, documenting the scenery and people of modern day Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and China. The collection includes eight albumen prints from wet-plate collodion negatives taken early in Thomson's photographic career. The images of Penang, Malaysia, are all signed by John Thomson, with five dated November 1863. Subjects include Malay people, a native infantry regiment, sugar mill, temple, and Thomson's widely reproduced image of tree ferns.

Locations in this Collection: