Autochromes Lumière

Archives de la Planète

How were they Collected?
Albert Kahn, a successful financier, devoted his life and his fortune in the years 1898 to 1931 to the realisation of universal peace. He created numerous institutions designed to promote international cooperation and understanding between the people of the world. He was convinced that an understanding of foreign cultures would encourage respect and peaceful relations between different cultures. He saw very early on that his era would witness an acceleration in social change, and the disappearance of traditional ways of living. It was in 1909, following a world tour, that he solidified his plan to create the Archives de la Planète [Archives of the Planet]. He recruited photographers and cameramen, charged with knowing fully the ways and customs of the people they would meet on their mission. Beginning in 1912 the scientific and geographic direction of the project was brought under the care of Jean Brunhes (1869-1930), founder of the discipline of human geography in France.

The Lumière brothers' two recent inventions, the Cinématographe (1895) and the Autochrome (1907), contributed greatly to Kahn's cause. Between 1909 and 1931, Albert Kahn financed photographic and cinematographic campaigns that traversed the globe. This collection, called the Archives de la Planète, now belonging to the Albert Kahn museum, is made up of over 72,000 Autochromes, making it the most important collection in the world. It provides a panoramic view of the planet, across 50 countries, including some 2500 portraits of anonymous and known individuals, as well as intellectual, political, military and religious personalities of the time.

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