Early 1900s in COLOUR
June 3, 2010 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Early 1900s in COLOUR (a sampling). "In the early part of the 20th century French-Jewish capitalist Albert Kahn set about to collect a photographic record of the world, the images were held in an 'Archive of the Planet'. Before the 1929 stock market crash he was able to amass a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, the first industrial process for true colour photography." The whole enchilada.
posted by spock (31 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posing this. There are some really cool pictures in there.
posted by drezdn at 6:02 AM on June 3, 2010

I have always loved posts in this vein. (Not a double as far as I see, just linking some other super awesome old color photo threads.)
posted by norm at 6:18 AM on June 3, 2010

Neat. When I see a color picture I automatically think "1950s or later". It's fun to have that expectation challenged.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:22 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the first link don't miss the comments by Franny Wentzel at the bottom. She answers questions about the photographs.
posted by vapidave at 6:34 AM on June 3, 2010

I have often wondered why references seem always to be to a (example) French-Jewish banker or artist, when I never see a French-Catholic banker or a French-Protestant banker or a French-atheist banker...what of a French-Jewish-Gay banker as opposed to a French-Jewish-straight banker?
posted by Postroad at 6:35 AM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's interesting how color photos, even with such a primitive process as this, really changes your perspective of the times. I really like the picture of the Chinese man ('A 1273' is written on the top of the picture). His pose and the colors of the picture makes it seem almost modern, even though it was taken 100 years ago.
posted by pziemba at 6:48 AM on June 3, 2010

What city is the United States picture from? It looks familiar but I cannot put my finger on it.
posted by cloeburner at 6:59 AM on June 3, 2010

This is fantastic. I love early photography and this set is a gold mine.
posted by immlass at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2010

Albert Kahn previously, and previously-er.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2010

Nevermind, it's the Plaza Hotel in New York.
posted by cloeburner at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2010

His pose and the colors of the picture makes it seem almost modern, even though it was taken 100 years ago.

I was going to comment on the same thing. He is slouching in a way that you see contemporary people do all the time but essentially never see in early photos, where posing was the norm. It's incredibly striking in its out-of-character aesthetic and does more to break down the barrier of time than the colors themselves.
posted by briank at 7:09 AM on June 3, 2010

Although perhaps more than a bit heretical for the purist, here is a tutorial on recreating the autochrome look in digital with Photoshop. There is also a (pretty small) Autochromatica group on Flickr.
posted by spock at 7:13 AM on June 3, 2010

I see dead people. LOTS of dead people.
posted by yhbc at 7:14 AM on June 3, 2010

Those are unbelievable. Awesome.
posted by chococat at 7:17 AM on June 3, 2010

Agree with chococat, little more to add than "unbelievable". I don't consider myself particularly engaged with photography, but there isn't one photo in there that doesn't fascinate me.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2010

...and for those geeky few ("We salute you") who wish to recreate the actual autochrome process: Autochrome Recipe from Metropolitan Museum of Art .

More about the autochrome process from books of the period (Google Books links): 1, 2.
posted by spock at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't miss this photo. According to the comments at the end of the page it's a Mongolian woman condemned to die of starvation - in a wooden box left in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes on Earth. Her head and one arm are stretched out of a hole in the box.
posted by Termite at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2010


I particularly love this one. That guy oozes insouciance from every pore!
posted by aubilenon at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2010

Ah, how quickly we forget. Photography was hard. I think it would have qualified as an "extreme sport" had such a term existed at the time. No wonder it took a rich man to pull this collection off.
posted by tommasz at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2010

Just, wow.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:28 AM on June 3, 2010

For those who may not have found it, the map on the will take you to slideshows (Flash) of photos from the individual country of your choosing:
posted by spock at 8:41 AM on June 3, 2010

What is going on in this one?
posted by sanko at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2010

The picture of an old pusher biplane reminds me why those early planes were just the coolest things ever.
posted by fleacircus at 9:01 AM on June 3, 2010

sanko: read the comments.
posted by fleacircus at 9:02 AM on June 3, 2010

Thank you! Awesome stuff.
And yep the starving-to-death-woman pic is surreal!
posted by Monkeymoo at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2010

This is awesome, especially since - like Calvin's dad - I just sort of imagine that world was in black and white at this point. Unlike periods before photography, which existed exclusively in paint. Or something.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:13 AM on June 3, 2010

Yes, the Chinese man needs to be featured on the Sartorialist, stat.
posted by redsparkler at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2010

Last year I caught a few episodes of a BBC documentary series about the Kahn collection. I think it was this one. It has nine parts (though for some reason it's listed on imdb as five part series, where the listed parts are the first five parts of the larger series). I highly recommend it. I anyone has a chance to see it, they should.

The films and photographs were wonderful, and it didn't feel dumbed down to me at all. (Unlike most documentaries on tv these days. So sloooooow and repetitive and overly dramatical.) I know it's a cliché, but it really made history come alive for me. I regret not being able to see the whole thing.
posted by severiina at 11:02 AM on June 3, 2010

This should be tagged albertkahn.
Also, thank you for this wonderful collection.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2010

Hmm, they've got one picture from the road from the town where I live to the neighbouring town, which leads me to expect that there are more pictures which are local to me. Interesting and good find!
posted by Harald74 at 4:41 AM on June 4, 2010

« Older Those ink blobs just rebuilt themselves.   |   Sueing 14,000+ P2P users to SAVE CINEMA Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments