Archives of the Planet

March 16, 2017

Who knew that colour photography was so old?

Actually I did, but it makes a good first line. The Lumiere Brothers invented a colour process in 1903 called Autochrome. It first became available in 1907 and within two years, a Paris banker Albert Kahn was inspired to use the process to compile a photographic record of the whole world. Over the next 22 years, the photographers that Kahn hired produced 72,000 pictures for the project entitled The Archives of the Planet .

These photographs (plus many films shot at the same time) are housed at the Musée Albert Kahn, just to the west of Paris. Fortunately the collection is also online (though you then miss out on the beautiful gardens).

There are some wonderful images in the collection and with so many to chose from, it is hard to pick a favourite.

A chief and his wives in Dahomey in 1930

Boulevard De La Chapelle 1912

Bosnian boys 1912

One particularly moving one from 1921 shows a market in the Syrian city of Homs, now bombed beyond recognition.

To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Musée has a special exhibition of photographs from the war.

Poste d'observation d'artillerie aux tranchées de 1ère ligne, Conchy-les-Pots, Oise  : 24 juillet 1915, Autochrome de Stéphane Passet, inv. A 5900. © Musée Albert-Kahn - Département des Hauts-de-Seine

Aside from the historic value of these photographs, many of them are also simply very beautiful pictures. A browse through the archive is very rewarding.