The collector is the true resident of the interior. The collector dreams his way not only into a distant or bygone world but also into a better one.
- Walter Benjamin
Émile Gsell was an early photographer in Southeast Asia, establishing one of the first photographer studios in the region in tSaigon (now, Ho Chi Minh City). Leaving his native France, Gsell was hired by the Commission d'exploration du Mékong in 1866 to photograph the ruins of Angkor Wat, following on to explore Cambodia and Siam (now, Thailand). After the exploration, Gsell founded his studio in Saigon, the first commercial photography studio in the city. In addition to the early photographs of Angkor Wat, Gsell is famous for his ethnographic portraits of the people of Southeast Asia as well as the French colonial presence there.