For most of us are normal to see historical photographs in black and white, due to the diffusion of monochrome films during the early years of photographic technique. The color images, however, were almost contextual to the invention of photography itself, and it was only the difficulty of creating the supports capable of resuming the different colors that changed over the years, making the spread of colour photograph more and more common.
Tired of the endless series of black and white photos that were popular in that days, French banker and intellectual Albert Kahn decided to do something about it. So, in 1909, he commissioned four photographers to take their cameras all around the world, and using Autochrome Lumière, to document in color what they saw.
A color photographic archive on a global scale, a testimony that proved to be of fundamental importance for knowing the appearance of the world during that precise historical moment. Of this series, the photograph of the woman buried alive in the Mongolian desert remains very famous.
By personally financing the expedition of four photographers to 50 countries around the globe, thousands of shots were taken, which tell us about the cities of the four corners of the planet in a very different way than the images we used to associate with the period before the First World War.
One of the cities on the list was, of course, Paris, and in 1914, photographers Leon Gimpel, Stephane Passet, Georges Chevalier, and Auguste Leon began their work.
Today numerous shots remain depicting the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and the Moulin Rouge but also the suburbs and lesser-known streets, showing us a city that, today, no longer exists.
The capital of France was much more rural and less crowded than it appears today. However, their photos show us that the daily bustle of Paris life was much more colorful than we imagined, with storefronts painted bright red, or walls plastered with colorful photos.
In 1986 a museum was dedicated to the banker, the Albert-Kahn Museum, which also collects the photographic collection commissioned by the French philanthropist.