25
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘The World c. 1914. Colour Photography Before the Great War’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Exhibition dates: 1st August – 2nd November 2014

Albert Kahn, Sergej M. Prokudin-Gorskii, Adolf Miethe

 

One of the most beautiful postings that I have ever done on the blog. The colours, the people, the faces, the places: magnificent.

This was Sarajevo two years before Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated there, catalyst that sparked the beginning of The Great War. Bread and dirty clothes, rough hands and mud-stained shoes.

I could find nothing about either of the two photographers (Stéphane Passet and Auguste Leon) online, which is a pity because I would have liked to have known more about them. Can you imagine the journey of Stéphane Passet in those days with plate cameras:

Turkey: September 1912
Morocco: December 1912 / January 1913
China: May 1913
Mongolia: July 1913
India: December 1913 – January 1914
France: June 1914

Marcus

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The Archives of the Planet (French: Les Archives de la Planète) was photographical endeavour to document buildings and cultures.

In 1909, Kahn travelled with his chauffeur and photographer, Alfred Dutertre to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. On his return to Europe, he decided to go back, this time with the professional photographer Augustus Leon, for a second two-month trip to South America in 1909 where he visited Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. All materials became the first of the “Archives of the Planet” based in Paris: a collection of color photographs (process autochrome plates, invented by the Lumiere brothers) and movies.

This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autochrome plates, and early cinematography.

Professional operators were recruited and sent around the world and in France to photograph (color) and film (the movement) as evidence “aspects, practices and modes of human activity, including the fatal disappearance is only a matter of time.” Among them, the photographer Stéphane Passet conducted between 1912 and 1914, several trips to China, Mongolia and in the British Raj (India and Pakistan), yielding several thousand Autochromes and movies on the people and customs of these country. At the same time Kahn sent his operators, including Augustus Leon, to Scandinavia and more than twenty European countries on the eve of the Great War. Kahn’s photographers began documenting France in 1914, just days before the outbreak of World War I, and by liaising with the military managed to record both the devastation of war, and the struggle to continue everyday life and agricultural work. Other parts of France are not forgotten either, Kahn sending Brittany operators to take monochromes from 1909 – 1931. In 1926 and 1927, it was to Japan that he sends an operator, Roger Dumas.

Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as The Archives of the Planet. Between 1909 and 1931, it is thus some 72,000 autochrome (first global fund of early color photography), 4000 black-and-white, and a hundred hours of footage that will be reported from fifty country. These images are the iconographic side of a large documentation project that will take other forms (publications, documentation centers, etc.) and whose goal is a better understanding of other nations for a better deal in order to prevent conflicts. The images are also projected for this purpose to the guests, often prestigious people from around the world, as well as in higher education structures.

Translated from the French Wikipedia

 

 

Stephane Passet. 'Morocco, Benguerir' December 1912 / January 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Morocco, Benguerir
December 1912 / January 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Turkey, Istanbul September' 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Turkey, Istanbul
September 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' 15 October 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo
15 October 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' (detail) 15 October 1912

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' (detail) 15 October 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo (details)
15 October 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Mongolia, near Ulaanbaatar' 17 July 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Mongolia, near Ulaanbaatar
17 July 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Egypt, Giza' 6 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Egypt, Giza
6 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'India, Uttar Pradesh' 19 - 21 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
India, Uttar Pradesh
19 – 21 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar' 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar' 25 July 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar
25 July 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'India, Bombay' 17 December 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
India, Bombay
17 December 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'France, Paris' 24 June 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
France, Paris (Family in the Rue du Pot-de-Fer)
24 June 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Serbia, Krusevac' 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Serbia, Krusevac
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Serbia, Krusevac' (detail) 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Serbia, Krusevac (detail)
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

“In commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War, the Martin-Gropius-Bau is presenting an exhibition entitled The World c. 1914 – Colour Photography Before the Great War, which features nearly forgotten colour photographs and films commissioned by the French banker Albert Kahn (1860-1940) before the First World War. As the nations of Europe were already arming themselves for battle, Kahn, who was excited by the Lumière Brothers’ colour photography process, dispatched photographers out into the world to develop a unique photo archive. Over 70,000 colour photos have survived in this collection. They represent an immense ethnographic treasure and were also intended to perform a mission of peace: Bringing the outside world closer to home. Kahn’s activities were intended to help secure the fragile peace. The exhibition brings this treasure trove of images from a long forgotten world to light.

For Albert Kahn, knowledge of peoples, buildings, landscapes and lifestyles was directly related to his desire for global peace: People who know and respect one another, and who encounter one another face to face, do not need to wage war. In 1908/09, excited by the new autochrome process of the brothers August and Louis Lumière, Kahn commissioned his photographers to document the world with the goal of assembling an archive of colour photographs from Europe, Asia and Africa. They photographed local scenes and people in typical clothing as well as monuments of cultural history. From this global treasure trove, more than 160 images have been selected for this exhibition. The autochromes from the Kahn archive form the centrepiece. The exhibition also displays images and projections by Adolf Miethe (1862 – 1927) and Sergei M. Prokudin-Gorskii (1863 – 1944).

Adolf Miethe, the inventor of a panchromatic film-coating process and thus the creator of three-colour printing, played a significant role in the development of colour photography. His presentation before the Kaiser led to a commission to create a colour documentation of German landscapes for the St. Louis World’s Fair. His work also enjoyed great popularity as collectible pictures sold with chocolate bars. This resulted in the “Stollwerck Album” – Germany’s first coloured photographic album.

Moreover, the Miethe Process inspired the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. His work is present in the form of approximately twenty-five colour prints and fifty projected photos. A special item is on loan from the German Museum in Munich: The original projector with which Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii exhibited his work to Nicholas II, the last tsar. In 1909, as a result of this presentation, Prokudin-Gorskii received a commission to record the Russian Empire in 10,000 photos. Between 1909 and 1915, Gorskii made several thousand photographs of great brilliance. He documented the cultural diversity of the tsarist empire from the Crimean Peninsula to Siberia.”

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Auguste Leon. 'Egypt, Assuan' 20 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Egypt, Assuan
20 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Morocco, Fes' January 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Morocco, Fes
January 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'China, Beijing' 26 May 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
China, Beijing
26 May 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Turkey, Istanbul, Pera' (today: Beyoğlu) September 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Turkey, Istanbul, Pera (today: Beyoğlu)
September 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Le Moulin Rouge, Boulevard de Clichy (18°) Paris' 24 June 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Le Moulin Rouge, Boulevard de Clichy (18°), Paris
24th June 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
T: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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