Albert Kahn (born Abraham Kahn, 3 March 1860 - 14 November 1940) was a French banker and philanthropist, known for initiating Archives de la Planète [The Archives of the Planet], a vast photographical project. Spanning 22 years, it resulted in a collection of 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film.
Life and work
In 1909 Albert Kahn embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new autochrome process, the world's first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.
Kahn used his vast fortune to send a group of intrepid photographers to more than fifty countries around the world, often at crucial junctures in their history, when age-old cultures were on the brink of being changed for ever by war and the march of twentieth-century globalisation. They documented in true colour the collapse of both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires; the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, just a few years before they were demolished; and the soldiers of the First World War — in the trenches, and as they cooked their meals and laundered their uniforms behind the lines. They took the earliest-known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States.
At the start of 1929 Kahn was still one of the richest men in Europe. Later that year the Wall Street Crash reduced his financial empire to rubble and in 1931 he was forced to bring his project to an end. Kahn died in 1940. His legacy, still kept at the Musée Albert-Kahn in the grounds of his estate near Paris, is now considered to be the most important collection of early colour photographs in the world .
Operators of The Archives of the Planet
- Auguste Léon (Europe, 1909-1930)
- Jean Brunhes (Europe, 1912-1930)
- Léon Busy (Africa, Indochina, Europe, 1914-1920)
- Paul Castelnau (Middle-Orient, Egypt, 1917-1919)
- Georges Chevalier (Europe, North Africa, 1914-1945)
- Fernand Cuville (Europe, 1917-1921)
- Photographers and filmmakers
- Stéphane Passet (Europe, Extreme-Orient, North Africa, 1912-1917 and 1929-1930)
- Frédéric Gadmer (Middle-Orient, Africa, Canada,1919-1932)
- Roger Dumas (Europe, India, Japan, 1920-1931)
- Lucien Le Saint (Europe, Middle-Orient, Terra-Nova, 1918-1923)
- Camille Sauvageot (Europe, North Africa, 1919-1932)
- Thibaud(t) (France, 1919-1931)
- Ocasional operators
- Alfred Dutertre (1908-1909),
- Souvieux and Jules Gervais-Courtellemont (Algeria and Tunisia, 1909-1910)
- Marguerite Mespoulet (Ireland, 1913)