See your ancestors in color

In 1909, a French philanthropist banker created The Archives of the Planet, a project designed to record and share the diversity of the world. Between 1909 and 1931, Albert Kahn financed missions around the globe, producing more than 72.000 photographs, as well as over 100 hours of video footage. A firm pacifist, he tried to enlighten decision-makers in order to achieve and maintain peace.


Faces from the past

His collection takes the viewer from the western Canadian coast to Japan, and from Rio de Janeiro to Benin, in Africa. With the help of geographer Jean Brunhes, Khan’s project integrated the principles of human geography, a branch of geography studying the dynamics between human cultures and their environment.

Indes, Peshawar, Une rue
Stéphane Passet, Children on a street, January 1917, Peshawar, Pakistan (A 4 419)
Hollande, Volendam, Groupe de trois jeunes filles en Costume type
Stéphane Passet, Three young girls, 31st of August 1929, Volendam, The Netherlands (A 61 916 S)
Ourga, Femme Mongole
Stéphane Passet, Mongolian married Woman, 23rd of July 1913, Mongolia (A 3 962)

A changing world

Kahn’s photo-campaigns unfold during a time of dramatic changes, from relative peace to world war, and from rural to mass industrialization. This is also when the Lumière brothers invented the autochrome, an early color photography process. This new technique captured Khan’s attention, to the point of establishing one of the largest autochrome collections in the world.

Autriche Hongrie, La boutique du libraire juif : le nom du libraire est : J. M. Belf Rabensteig. 3.
Auguste Léon, Jewish book store, 23rd of April 1913, Vienna, Austria (A 1 762)

Albert Khan’s intention was to capture disruptive events, transcending immediate reality. And his life was rich in such episodes from the beginning : he was born in 1860 in Alsace, France, a territory occupied by the Germans in 1871 and reconquered by the French after WW1. He died in November 1940, in Nazi-occupied Paris, not long after having declared himself a Jew during a census run by the new regime.

France, Moreuil, Hôpital d'évacuation de Moreuil. Blessures produites par les éclats d'obus
Stéphane Passet, Moreuil hospital, shell wounds, 1st of August 1916, Moreuil, France (A 7 786)
France, Verdun, Ruines, Vue prise vers le Théâtre de la Place de la Magdeleine
Georges Chevalier, Verdun, May 9th 1919, France (A 16 093)
Angleterre, Londres, Ocford Street : la Maison Waringd
Georges Chevalier, Verdun, May 9th 1919, France (A 16 093)

A very select face-book

His estate in Boulogne, on the outskirts of Paris, as well as his villa in Cap-Martin, on the French Riviera, hosted many of his high-society friends. Luckily for us, Kahn had a habit of placing his guests, no matter how select, in front of a camera, thus collecting a series of remarkable portraits.

France, Boulogne, Rabindranâth Tagore - Mme Tagore - Mme ...
Georges Chevalier, Rabindranâth Tagore, Indian poet, Nobel prize winner, July 26th 1926, Boulogne, France (A 48 581)
France, Boulogne, Portraits, Prince Roland Bonaparte
Auguste Léon, The prince Roland Bonaparte, great-nephew of Napoleon I, September 9th 1921, Boulogne, France (A 28 377)
Aucune légende d'époque
Auguste Léon, The wife and daughter of the German ambassador in France, c.1914, Cap-Martin, France (C 1 398 X)
France, Boulogne, Portraits, S.M. Ferdinand, Roi de Roumanie
Georges Chevalier, Romanian king Ferdinand I, April 16th 1924, Boulogne, France (A 40 693 X)

Albet Kahn’s collection, as well as his gardens, are a part of the Albert-Kahn Museum in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. All the photographs are credited to the museum.

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