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, Chit learned photography techniques with John Thomson, the English photographer who came to Siam to photograph King Mongkut (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 Thonburi, 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, views and historic events.

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

He died of cholera on 23 May 1891 at the age of 61. His descendents use the surname of Chitrakani. One son carried on operating the photo studio, became a Royal sponsored photographer, and was given the title Kun Chaya Satisakorn.

Young Francis

A self portrait, probably when he was Kun Sunthorn Satisluksana

Featured here are some from my collection form the Francis Chit and Son studio. Some were by Francis Chit himself, and some were by his son. Most are Carte de Visites, or in the size of 54 x 89 mm mounted on card size 64 x 100 mm, except for Prince Asdang's, my great-grandfather Prince Pravitra's and Mom Chao Morakot's photos which are Cabinet Cards, of size 108 x 165 mm mounted on card. Apart from being interested in the portraits and the history of the sitters if I know who they are, I also love the back of these photographs, as they show the name of the photo studio, and especially the variety of designs, as well as the different colours used. They tell stories of the photostudio themselves, especially with Francis Chit's with his different titles and place in society over time.
King Chulalongkorn as novice monk King Chulalongkorn by Francis Chit King Chulalongkorn by Francis Chit
King Chulalongkorn as a novice monk, 1873 King Rama V at his Coronation Ceremony Another of King Chulalongkorn
Queen Sri Bajarindra by Francis Chit Prince Asdang by Francis Chit Young Prince Pravitra by Francis Chit
Queen Regent Sri Bajarindra Prince Asdang whilst in monkhood, signed and dated My great-grandfather, Prince Pravitra. The cabinet photo is in a fixed frame already, so didn't want to take it out in order to see the back.
A princess by Francis Chit Royals by Francis Chit Francis Chit portrait
A princess from the Third Reign Mom Chao Ying Morakot, daughter of Prince Nilarat, a son of King Rama II, and Mom Rajawongse Ying Lumjuan Chao Praya Surasak Montri
Francis Chit Photo Franchis Chit Photo Francis Chit Photo
Unknown man, during the Fourth Reign Unknown man, but is one of my favourite - shows a very traditional dress and hairstyle, most likely during the Fourth Reign Sons of an aristocrat, during the Fourth Reign
Crown Prince Maha Vajirunhis by Francis Chit Wat Po by  Francis Chit Temple of Dawn by Francis Chit
Crown Prince Maha Vajirunhis at his investiture ceremony, attributed to Francis Chit The entrance to Wat Po was a popular view for many photographers at that time, and this same view was also taken by John Thomson. This particular photo is attributed to Francis Chit though. Another popular view was Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. It must have been a brilliant sight to see for anyone entering Bangkok for the first time.
Francis Chit portrait Francis Chit portrait Francis Chit portrait
Unknown gentlemen, but love the different colours of the back which has the same colour as the frame at the front. The last portrait is quite interesting - not a royal or noble but an ordinary Siamese man.
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Updated 7 June 2021