Through China with a Camera

Nick Pearce, Sir John Richmond Chair of Fine Art, University of Glasgow

Although John Thomson spent just five years in China, the opportunity he had of travelling to parts seen by few other westerners, as well his large output of photographs (many of them published through his own books), made his name synonymous with the country. He was also the first professional photographer to capture the extent of the country, its complexity and variety in both text as well as image. The lecture will focus in particular on the challenges Thomson met while travelling and photographing in China, the range of his output and the techniques he used and the output of his work in published form. It is this aspect of Thomson’s career that marks him out as more than just a photographer; he was one of the first photo-journalists.

About the Presenter

Professor Nick Pearce holds the Sir John Richmond Chair of Fine Art at the University of Glasgow, where he specializes in the arts of China. His career has spanned both museums and universities, with positions at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, and Durham and Edinburgh universities. He joined the University of Glasgow in 1998, where he has served as head of History of Art and latterly head of the School of Culture & Creative Arts. Pearce’s research interests include photographers and photography in late-nineteenth-century China, and aspects of collecting of Chinese art in the West during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, including provenance research.

Recent publications include: Original Intentions: Essays on Production, Reproduction and Interpretation in the Arts of China with Jason Steuber (University Press of Florida, 2012); and "From Relic to Relic: A Brief History of the Skull of Confucius," Journal of the History of Collections, vol.26 (2), 2014, pp.207-222.