Siamese Aristocracy
  Luang Akani Naruemitr (Francis Chit)
  The First Siamese Photographer
Photos by Francis Chit
HM King Rama V in full regalia
HM King Rama V at a tonsure ceremony

Luang Akani Naruemitr was born in 1830, son of a soldier. His Thai name was Chit, but later adopted the Western name of Francis when he adopted the Christian faith. He studied photography with Father Louis Larnaudie, a French priest, who brought in the modern way of capturing pictures onto glass plates, during the reign of King Rama III. Father Larnaudie entered Siam on 25 July 1845, together with the camera equipment belonging to Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix, Vicar Apostolic of Eastern Siam. In addition, Chitr learned photography techniques with John Thompson, the English photographer who came to Siam to photograph King Rama IV and Prince Chulalongkorn, as well as other members of the Royal Family.

Chit opened his photography studio next to the Santa Cruz church in Thinburi, and named it Francis Chit and Son. At the beginning of King Rama V's reign, the king appointed Chit as the official court photographer. His photographs were unique in its colouring as well as not being as sharp as others, but this was due to the poorer quality of chemicals used in the process, as better quality ones were not available in Siam at the time. Many old photogrpahs that survived to this day, as well as the glass plates at the National Library came from Francis Chit's studio. His photographs ranged from the Royal Family, the Aristocracy, the general people as well as places and historic events.

Chit was bestowed the title of Kun Sunthorn Satisluksana by HM King Rama V, and later the title of Luang Akani Naruemitr in 1880, when he was 50.

He died of cholera on 23 May 1891 at the age of 61. His descendents use the surname of Chitrakani.

Young Francis

A self portrait, probably when he was Kun Sunthorn Satisluksana

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Updated 2 October 2011