Albert Kahn was a French banker and philanthropist. In 1909, after visiting Japan with photographer Alfred Dutertre, he set upon an idea to create a photographic record of the entire Earth.
Kahn appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet. The project was not just ambitious and groundbreaking conceptually, but also technologically. Kahn’s photographers used the earliest form of colour photography, the Autochrome Lumière, and rudimentary cinematography to take what are some of the earliest known colour photographs of many countries.
The above gallery is a small selection of photos taken in China for Kahn’s project. The photos date from around 1921, when the Republic of China was still largely controlled by Sun Yat-sen and his allies, before it succumbed to the autocratic rule of Chiang Kai-shek‘s Kuomintang and all out war with invading Japanese forces and an emergent Chinese Communist Party.
A collection of the photos commissioned for Kahn’s project is available in attractive coffee-table-book form: The Dawn of the Color Photograph: Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet.
[Via: Past and Present (RU), Beijing Cream, Reddit]