In 1908, the French millionaire launched a monumentally ambitious initiative to create his
In 1908, the French millionaire launched a monumentally ambitious initiative to create his own 'Archives of the Planet' - a colour photographic record of human life on Earth. An internationalist and pacifist, Kahn believed that he could use the new autochrome – the world's first portable, true-colour photographic process – to promote cross-cultural understanding and peace.
Kahn's team of photographers captured the everyday and the momentous. They documented age-old cultures on the brink of being changed forever, including Ireland's traditional Celtic villages, the late days of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Chinese women with their feet bound. They photographed First World War soldiers in their trenches as well as the post-war celebrations in London. And they took some of the earliest known colour photographs in countries as varied as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway and the United States.
After being financially ruined in the Great Depression, Kahn was forced to bring his project to a premature end, but it remains a treasury of vivid and hauntingly beautiful images and one of the world's most important photographic collections.