John Thomson was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East in the 1860s, documenting the people, landscapes and artefacts of modern day Singapore, China, Vietnam and Cambodia in a series of extraordinary, high quality images. He was the first to instruct the Royal Geographic Society in the art of travel photography and he pioneered social reportage - his work, documenting the lives of the poorest street people in London, formed the basis for photojournalism. However, his photography covered a wide swathe of regions and people and he photographed both paupers and princes, charming his way in the homes of the aristocracy and royalty in both Asia and England. The great Isabella Bird followed in his footsteps.
This tour follows in the footsteps of Thompson from Canton (Guanzhou) and up the coast to Beijing. It visits the places he visited and seeks out the sights he photographed that remain to this day. You will travel through the streets of Shanghai and Beijing with local historic societies, learning about the society and history of Beijing and Shanghai in the period that Thompson was there.
This tour is lead by the accomplished photographic historian, Deborah Ireland, who has lectured widely on Thompson and written about Isabella Bird's travels in China.
Deborah Ireland FRGS is a freelance curator and author specialising in the history of photography, with a particular interest in travel photography. Her previous posts include assistant curator at The Royal Photographic Society and director of photography at AA Publishing. She has curated exhibitions and written for the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Photographic Society, including Isabella Bird, a photographic Journal of travels through China 1894 – 1896. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she has been a judge on Travel Photographer of the Year since its inception in 2003.