Archives of the Planet | How to change the world

We recently did an Instagram post on Albert Kahn's archives and loved it so much, we wanted to give it a second life. The photo we posted is shown above. We originally found the photo while searching for images of Ahmedabad; where two of our textile factories are located. The photo is of a priest in officiating attire. He is standing inside the Jain Temple of Hathi Singh in Ahmedabad (1913). The photo was taken by Stéphane Passet and reproduced by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Albert Kahn | The Ordinary Banker

Albert was French and a banker. He was independently wealthy and a fairly good businessman but besides that, there is nothing very special about Albert. Except for one project he started in 1909 called "Les Archives de la Planète" which intuitively translates to "The Archives of the Planet". 

The Archives | How To Change The World


In 1910, Albert Khan set out to capture the world. He teamed up with the Lumière brothers who supplied state of the art equipment, including color photography and cinema. Together, they placed dozens of photographers on every continent to build, what they called, “a giant mapping” of the world.

The goal was not to study the people or create a piece of art. Instead, the goal was to record humans in all their diversity. Imagining that knowledge of the "other" would lead to a desire for peace and brotherhood among all. Almost seems too relevant today. 

Albert once said, the purpose of the archives was to account for "the aspects and the practices of human activity, which will inevitably disappear over time". 

The Photos We Love

The Great Depression put an end to Kahn's project but the archives will last beyond our generation. We are moved by so many of the photos and we wanted to share our favorites below. You can find the entire project here and see them for yourself. The project spanned 22 years and finished with 72,000 color photographs and 183,000 meters of film. Albert died in 1940 during the Nazi occupation of France. He was 80.