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
(Bombay, India | Stéphane Passet, 1913)
In order to change the world, I needed to observe it.- Albert Kahn
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.
(Port-Saïd, Egypt | Paul Castelnau, 1918)
(Lama Officiating Yonghegong Palace Beijing, Chine | Stéphane Passet, 1913)
(Goldsmith in Kabul, Afghanistan | Frédéric Gadmer, 1928)
(WWI Reims, France | Fernand Cuville, 1917)
(Issoire, France | Stéphane Passet 1917)
(Sudanese Village Jeddah, Arabia | Paul Castelnau 1918)
(Kurkish women Mar-Yakoub, Iraq | Frédéric Gadmer, 1927)
(Limoges, France | Unspecified, 1913)
(Women of Ouled Naïl tribe Bou Saada, Algeria | Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, 1909)
(Santa Maria Val Müstair, Switzerland | Frédéric Gadmer, 1921)
(Moreuil, France | Stéphane Passet, 1916)
(Beijing, China | Stéphane Passet, 1912)
(Sarajevo, Bosnia | Auguste Léon, 1912)
(Cheif Zodéougan surrounded by his court Benin, Africa | Frédéric Gadmer, 1930)
(Toulouse, France | Georges Chevalier, 1916)
(Amber, India | Stéphane Passet, 1913)
(Soissons, France | Fernand Cuville, 1917)
(Mongol hunter Ourga, Mongolia | Stéphane Passet, 1913)
(Dancers and musicians of the Ouled Naïl tribe Bou Saada, Algeria | Jules Gervais-Courtellemont 1909)
(Picking tabacco Reth, Albania | Auguste Léon, 1913)
(Fruit market Damascus, Syria | Frédéric Gadmer, 1921)