John Thomson was a man of substance

August 13, 2008 – 12:09 pm

John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 7 October 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. One of the greats. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people of eastern cultures. Upon returning home, his work among the street people of London cemented his reputation, and is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism.

Thomson returned to Britain in 1872, settling in Brixton, London, which is where I am residing at the moment. Thomson never left again. Over the coming years he published his work, presenting the results of his travels in the Far East. His publications started initially in monthly magazines and were followed by a series of large illustrated photographic books. He wrote extensively on photography, contributing many articles to photographic journals such as the British Journal of Photography.

Thomson renewed his friendship with Adolphe Smith, a radical journalist whom he had met at the Royal Geographic Society in 1866. Together they produced the monthly magazine, Street Life in London, from 1876 to 1877. The project documented in photographs and capturers the lives of the street people of London. It is amazing as it highlights social documentary photography as an early type of photojournalism.

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