'Coolies', c 1871.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A photograph of two Chinese labourers, taken by John Thomson, published in 1873 in the book 'Foochow and the River Min'. These two labourers, or 'coolies', have jars or bundles of cloth on poles over their shoulders, the traditional way to carry goods in China. Thomson travelled extensively in Fujian province, formerly Fukien, south east China, from late 1870 to early 1871. He was one of the most significant travel photographer-explorers of the nineteenth century. Born in Scotland, he studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, before taking up photography in the 1860s.