Émile Gsell (1838–1879)
Émile Gsell was the first commercial photographer in Saigon. He had been sent to the southern region of Vietnam on military duty. After his discharge, however, he was selected to accompany the Mekong Exploration Commission as far as the interior of Cambodia. He was the first French photographer to take pictures of the towers of Angkor. After these travels, he opened the studio Gsell Photographie in Saigon, selling prints of Angkor with great success. He also took many images of landscape and life in Saigon and other areas of the south.
John Thomson (1837-1921)
John Thomson was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer, and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures.
Inspired by Henri Mouhot’s account of the rediscovery of the ancient cities of Angkor in the Cambodian jungle, Thomson embarked on what would become the first of his major photographic expeditions. He set off from Singapore in January 1866 with his translator H. G. Kennedy, a British Consular official in Bangkok, who saved Thomson’s life when he contracted jungle fever en route. The pair spent two weeks at Angkor, where Thomson extensively documented the vast site using glass plate negatives. When Lagree first heard of Thomson he was certain he must be a British spy, prompting his expedient recruitment of Gsell barely three months later.
Elephant sculpture – Nakhon Thom
Bas-relief panel – Nakhon Thom
Angled view of Angkor Wat complex