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01 Far East Expeditions to Empires

In 1909, a French banker with a vision, Albert Kahn, travelled with his chauffeur and photographer, Alfred Dutertre, to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. 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.

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.

Some of the most fascinating of the photographs come from the East, where Kahn sent a number of photographers. In the first of two films about this section of the collection, we see photographs from Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan and India.

This is truly a world standing on the brink of momentous change, with the old societies and customs still dominating, and the modern world just beginning to impinge on it.

Besides the stills all the photographers also took movie cameras with them, and we see ancient momuments before they were renovated, or destroyed, as well as the wonderful early colour prints of these societies in transition.

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