Many of us are used to seeing historical pictures in black and white, due to the diffusion of the monochromatic films during the early years of the photographic technique. The colourful pictures though arrived almost simultaneously to the invention of photography itself; it was just the complexity of the creation of tools able to bring out the different shades to change the course of the years, making more and more common the use of colours in photography throughout history.

The most used technique during the early 900’s was the autochrome, invented made and commercialised by the Lumière Brothers. The autochromatic sheets were widely used during the period running between 1907 and 1935, up until the invention of the Kodachrome rolls.

Paris in colours

The French banker and intellectual Albert Kahn decided during 1909 to realise a colourful photographic archive of global scale, testimony which revealed itself to be fundamental in order to disclose that exact historical moment. Of this series there is the famous picture of a buried alive woman in the Mongolian desert.

By personally funding an expedition of 4 photographers in 50 countries all over the globe, many pictures were taken, which tell us about the cities in the 4 corners of the planet in a way different language compared to the images we are used to associating to the period preceding WW1.

One of the cities that Kahn asked to photograph was, obviously, Paris, from which many pictures are left to us. The Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and the Moulin Rouge as well as the suburbs and the less known roads, showing a city that, today, does not exist any longer.

Leon Gimpel, Stephane Passet, Georges Chevalier, and Auguste Leon’s pictures date back to 1914, hence beyond a century old. They enlighten how the French capital was way more rural and less crowded than today. In 1986 they dedicated a museum to the banker, the Musée Albert-Kahn, collecting amongst other things even the photographic project that the French philanthrope had commissioned in the past.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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