Between east and west: John Thomson in Cyprus

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Thomson's 1878 Cyprus expedition is a key moment in the history of representing Cyprus. This paper highlights the disconnectedness between the mostly uncritical contemporary consumption of Thomson's images and historical realities. The paper argues that Thomson's photographs are much more than documents of a Cypriot past and are, in fact, the product of complex political, ideological and cultural concerns of his time. The context, within which he operated, notably colonialism, was instrumental in shaping the vision of Cyprus his photographs construct. His text and imagery emphasised decay but also Thomson employed a narrative of salvaging. When dealing with people Thomson emphasised physical characteristics over culture and typicality and collective character over individuality. Further, and almost inevitably, Thomson engaged in a discussion about the cultural orientation of the place and its people. Yet, Cyprus proved to be a non-straightforward case. It was a geographical, historical and cultural territory that would 'resist' a direct and uncomplicated categorisation and placement within either cultural sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-131
Number of pages21
JournalCyprus Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Colonialism
  • Cyprus
  • Orientalism
  • Photography
  • Travel


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