Albert Kahn’s Colour Photos of China

Between 1907 to the mid-1930s, Autochrome Lumiere was the primary colour photography process. In 1908, Albert Kahn, by then a Paris banker, purchased several autochrome plates and sent a team to China to record everyday life in the empire. Albert was by then fascinated in a new hobby, collecting photographic records and animated films from various parts of the world in film. The Chinese Empress Cixi died in 1908 leaving his infant grandson, Emperor Puyi, on the throne. Prince Chun, the infant’s father, was the ruler of China even though most provinces were practically autonomous from Beijing. However, Jiangsu and Hubei provinces became hotbeds of political activity before the tensions finally boiled over to a full-blown October 1911 revolution that eventually spelt the death of the Chinese Empire, leading to the formation of the Republic of China. Albert’s team, therefore, had the extraordinary luck of taking colour photos of the very last years of the Chinese Empire. The photos show a graphic journey of the empire beginning from Cixi’s death to the Puyi’s abdication. Apart from the clothing, the colour photos by Albert look like they could have been taken yesterday. In fact,>Albert’s colour photos gone viral over the Internet as the first colour representations of what China used to be like during the Chinese Empires days.

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