13 July 2007 | overseer-3
Vitally Important Historical Documentary
In many ways this incredible documentary has a title which doesn't reflect its subject matter - this five part series (soon to expand even more, or so I hear) covers world history from the turn of the last century up through the end of World War One, and the focus is on the first color photographs sponsored by the French financier and pacifist Albert Kahn, whose home is now a museum outside of Paris.
The photos, made with an early auto-chrome camera, are magnificent and reflect many different cultures, from Ireland to America to China to Japan to the Balkans to Mongolia to France and more. Not just Edwardian England; in fact there is very little Edwardian England at all. Kahn's photographers traveled the world, sponsored by his wealth made on the French stock market, to document different peoples and cultures, with the aim and hope of fostering tolerance and understanding between them.
His archive consisted of over 72,000 auto-chrome camera color photos and also thousands of feet of black and white moving images of big events like Armistice Day at the end of World War One, or Chinese women with their feet bound walking around taking care of their children, or even everyday Parisian scenes of people walking the streets shopping, bicycling, eating, even going to the bathroom in open stalls (!) while the camera ran unbeknown to the people, capturing scenes that are now 100 years old.
This is an outstanding documentary which needs to be seen by people around the globe, not just in England. I'm glad a friend sent it to me on PAL discs from the UK, but it needs a wider audience. I hope it's put together, when completed with the new episodes next year, into a large boxed DVD package, in both PAL and NTSC formats, for people around the world to enjoy and learn from. This documentary would be a wonderful way to teach early 20th century history to young people.