In 1909, millionaire banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn traveled to Japan on business. He was accompanied by his chauffeur and the photographer Alfred Dutertre, who he commissioned as his own personal Instagram to document his travels. Upon his return to his home in Paris, Kahn looked through the dozens of photos Duterte had snapped and decided he wanted to create “a photographic record of the entire Earth.” He therefore commissioned four photographers—Leon Gimpel, Stephane Passet, Georges Chevalier, and Auguste Leon—who were despatched, under the stewardship of project manager Jean Brunhes, to the four corners of the world with the simple directive to capture “a unique cinematic and photographic testimony of life of the people of the world.”
Using Autochrome Lumière—an early color photographic process that created color images with dyed potato starch on glass plates—and some early movie cameras, the photographers created an historical record of over 50 different countries between 1909 and 1929—taking 72,000 color photographs and shooting over 600,000 feet of film.
They documented in true colour the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, and the soldiers of the First World War. They took the earliest known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States.
Kahn was an idealist. He believed documenting the world through photographs and movies he could create a cross-cultural understanding between nations and bring global peace. Neat idea. However, with the Wall Street Crash in 1929, Kahn was forced to abandon the project. He died in 1940 leaving behind one of the most important and extensive historical photographic archives.
In 1914, Paris was one of the cities documented by Kahn’s four photographers. They captured the “City of Lights” on the very brink of the irreversible changes wrought by the First World War.
Via Bored Panda