Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

No, they weren't taken with an early Hipstamatic. They're a small sample of over 72,000 beautiful color photographs made at the turn of the 20th century as part of an effort to archive the planet.

From the BBC...
The Archive of the Planet was the brainchild of the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn. Between 1908 and 1930, he used his vast personal fortune to generate what is now acknowledged to be the most important collection of early colour photographs in the world.

As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use a newly invented color photography system to promote peace and greater understanding among the world's cultures. So he spent a fortune to hire photographers and send them to more than 50 countries all over the world. Altogether, they shot more than 72,000 colour pictures (as well as about 100 hours of film footage) recording everything from religious rituals and cultural practices to momentous political events all over the world.

They took the earliest known colour pictures in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Japan and Benin. Kahn bankrolled this enterprise for more than 20 years. A century after he launched his project, Albert Kahn's dazzling pictures put colour into what we almost always think of as an exclusively monochrome age.

To view the entire first episode (or maybe all of them), click here. The link is to a website in the Netherlands that streams the episodes. It's best to let the video buffer for awhile (15-20 mins) and then watch in full screen mode.

To visit the website for the Kahn Museum, click here.

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