In 1909 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn (pictured on the balcony of his office in Paris in 1914) embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new autochrome process, the worlds first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.
Kahn used his vast fortune to send a group of intrepid photographers to more than fifty countries around the world, often at crucial junctures of their history, when age-old cultures were on the brink of being changed for ever by war and the march of the twentieth-century globalisation. They documented in true colour the collapse of both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, just a few years before they were demolished, and the soldiers of the First World War - in the trenches, and as they cooked their meals and laundered their uniforms behind the lines. They took the earliest-known colour photographs in countries as far a part as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States.
At the start of 1929 Kahn was still one of the richest men in Europe. Later that year the Wall Street Crash reduced his financial empire to rubble and in 1931 he was forced to bring his project to an end. Khan died in 1940. His legacy, still kept at the Musee Albert-Kahn in the grounds of his estate near Paris, is now considered to be the most important collection of early photographs in the world.
Below: Fringe maker in Galway Ireland during May 1913
Below Right: Woman and child outside the smallest house in Claddagh, Galway, Ireland. June 1913.
Below Left: A policeman stands outside Swan and Edgar, a department store targeted by suffragettes during their campaign of window-breaking in 1911