Albert Kahn, born at Marmoutier, Bas-Rhin, France on March 3, 1860, died at Boulogne-Billancourt, Seine, France on the night of November 14, 1940, was a banker and French philanthropist.
He was born into a Jewish family, one of 5 children of his parents, Louis and Babette Kahn.
In 1879 he became a bank clerk in Paris but studied for a degree in the evenings. His tutor was Henri Bergson who remained his friend all his life. He graduated in 1881 and continued to mix in intellectual circles making friends with Auguste Rodin and Mathurin Méheut.
In 1892 he became a principal associate of the Goudchaux Bank which was regarded as one of most important financial houses of Europe.
In 1893 he acquired a large property in Boulogne-Billancourt where he established a unique garden containing a variety of garden styles including English, Japanese, a rose garden and a conifer wood. This became a meeting place for French and European intelligentsia until the 1930s when due to the wall street crash Kahn became bankrupt, the garden was turned into a public park in which Kahn would still take walks. Kahn died during the Nazi occupation and so escaped deportation.
In 1909 Kahn travelled 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”.
Kahn’s photographers began documenting France in 1914, just days before the outbreak of World War I, and by liaising with the military managed to record both the devastation of war, and the struggle to continue everyday life and agricultural work.
He also promoted education at the highest level through travelling scholarships.
The economic crisis of the Great Depression ruined Kahn and put an end to his project.
Since 1986 the photographs have been collected into a museum at 14, Rue du Port, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, at the site of his garden. It is now a French national museum and includes four hectares of gardens, as well as the museum which houses his historic photographs and film.
These and many more images have been published in “The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn”
Got to www.albertkahn.co.uk for more information and images.