The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

I’ve recently come across a marvellous documentary series which is called The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn: Colour photographs from a lost age. It contains a total of 9 episodes, each about 50 minutes long.

5 Episodes are the “Edwardians in Colour: The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn”, 2007, another 4 Episodes about the  “The Twenties in Colour.” Besides these, there is another BBC documentary called “Japan in Colour.”

Albert Kahn

Albert Kahn

In 1909, the banker, pacifist and idealist, Albert Kahn, was one of the richest people in Europe. At that time, he decided to create a photo archive of and for the people around the globe. He hired a whole crew of young people, whom he equipped with Autochrome cameras, before sending them to certain countries where he had them take pictures of regular people and the world as it was. The Autochrome was the first commercially available camera system that enabled the photographers to take true color pictures. Today, the Albert Kahn photo collection consists of about 72,000 color photographs as well as numerous hours of motion picture material in black and white as well as in color, and is today considered to be the most important collection of early color photographs in the world. Among these treasures are not only the first color pictures ever from countries like the United States, Vietnam and Brazil, but also a broad range of subject material from fishing boats, to architecture, to the Chinese during the reign of the Emperor. Since Albert Kahn had very good connections, he was able to record important events like the negotiations for the treaty of Locarno or World War I.

Luckily, this archive has survived practically in its entirety and is now located at the Musée Albert-Kahn in Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris

David Okuefuna and the BBC have now used some of that material to create a stunning documentary in 9 episodes as well as a coffee table book.

The documentaries are available on DVD, however the 9 episodes were apparently slightly modified in order to make them fit on the disk. Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone in general, and specifically to people who are interested in clothing, architecture and traveling.

Sadly, I have not had a chance to look at the book yet, but it is on its way to me and I will report back once I will have read it.

All pictures are shown with permission from the copyright owner Musée Albert-Kahn / Département des Hauts-de-Seine.