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Colour Photographs from a Lost Age

PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:45 am
by kas
Are you familiar with the photographic legacy of Albert Kahn yet?

I think you might be interested to be.
The nine episode documentary series on the subject is being broadcasted at the moment here in Finland, and it is all mindblowing stuff: the world of 100 years ago - in vivid colour (and I mean vivid, not faded).

like this:

or, moreover, like this: ... ndia_3.jpg

PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:41 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Thanks Kas, utterly fascinating stuff. The guy sure got around a bit didn't he?

I recall being similarly fascinated when they showed a tv programme of old newsreels here called 'The Second World War in Colour' and how it affected the whole way the war existed in my imagination. But these are something else, of their time in style in many ways, but letting you see and imagine that older past so much more freshly.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:23 am
by kas
Hugh Weldon wrote:Thanks Kas, utterly fascinating stuff. The guy sure got around a bit didn't he?

You're welcome, Hugh. The story behind these photographs is even more fascinating than one about a photogrqher with a wanderlust. Albert Kahn was a French industrialist who had gathered an immense wealth during the last decades of the 19th century.
He was also an Alsace jew who had to leave his home for Paris during the Franco-German war over Alsace (which France lost). His experiences had made him very much a pacifist and, in true French tradition, a believer in enlightening the people. He decided to start recruiting and financing young photographers and film makers and sent them to the four corners of the world documenting those regions.

At the same time the Lumière brothers and other French photographers had come up with a promising colour picture technique, and Kahn decided to put it into test.

In the end Kahn spent practically all his wealth on the project and it resulted in a vast archive... that has sat unorganised in his private archive. There is now a museum in Kahn's Paris home that is working on cataloguing the collection and setting it on display.

Those pictures in the documentary series and the book have not been colour enhanced or even restored in any big way. I think one of the finders of the archives testified in the series that they were also blown away by the rich colours of the picture plates they found.
I've seen some colour photos from around the 1910 - 1920 before, but they were much more faded and time worn than the Kahn 'stuff'.
This really is something else.

Re: Colour Photographs from a Lost Age

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:42 pm
by EleanorT
kas wrote:Are you familiar with the photographic legacy of Albert Kahn yet?

Haven't taken a close look yet at the links you've given, but what I can say is that the Musée Albert Kahn in the south west of Paris is a visit I'd long meant to do and finally did a couple of years ago, when there was an exhibition of early colour photos from North Africa. I was really amazed. I did not associate colour with such an early period. I spent so long enjoying the photos and a couple of fascinating films, that I missed the Japanese garden, which in itself is worth a visit - so this is a reminder I should go back there!

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:00 pm
by Philellinas
Better late than never...The BBC have now brought out a 3-DVD set of the series and I spent three hours last night transfixed watching the first four programmes. I had been aware of Albert Kahn because he sent several of his photographers to Thessaloniki and Mount Athos where I have found myself over the years. Naturally I found the programme on "Macedonia" (wherever that was) and Thessaloniki especially interesting. The Kahn archive would seem to be as irreplaceable as the great library of Alexandria. Next time I'm in Paris I'll head for the Kahn Museum rather than the sights.
(I have several minor quibbles. They couldn't pronounce Thessaloniki without making it sound like a Biblical city and the dreaded phrase "iconic image" reared its ugly head once (too often). Otherwise, an exemplary example of public service broadcasting). Phil

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:20 pm
by Rob Hall
By sheer coincidence, I have just put in an order for the book that goes with this series. I may go back for the DVD when circumstances allow.