Ton Kin Sing

The reek of confidence.

Look out for the work of Édouard de Saint-Ours in the future. In a fascinating paper last night he showed many early photographs from Vietnam including most strikingly, this marvellous picture (below) of the Singapore-Malay Saigon-based opium trader Ton Kin Sing by Paul-Émile Berranger in 1859. This guy was disliked by the Chinese in Cho Lon, but set himself up as a broker for deals with the French – a proper comprador, but I was so impressed by his reek of confidence. The paper on colonial photography was a synopsis of the phd underway by Édouard de Saint-Ours at St Andrews, but given here in HCMC yesterday. I had to leave a little early, but Édouard explained the photograph was taken aboard a French ship – floorboards, a sail behind him. Would love to know what the book he holds was – probably a ledger, but it looks to have a musician on the back. Amazing. (Photo is in a private collection, I don’t know the details of that as I had to leave before the end of the talk, but I will be in touch with the author)

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