An exhibition of early 20th Century photography,
The Archives of the Planet, has been the talk of the town
throughout the summer. The exhibition, curated by noted
Bulgarian photographer Ivo Hadzhimishev and organised by
the French Embassy and the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, was
on display at the National Art Gallery in Sofia, and is scheduled
to travel to Sozopol, Varna, Dobrich, Veliko Tarnovo, Elena,
Plovdiv and Stara Zagora.
The Archives of the Planet was conceived by Albert Kahn, a
wealthy French banker and philanthropist, after a round-theworld
tour in 1908-1909. In the best traditions of capitalist
positivism Kahn commissioned a group of scientists and
photographers to travel all over the world and document what
would later be dubbed "the largest library/image bank collection
of documents about humanity." Using mainly autochromes,
an early colour photography process, but also stereo as well
as moving images and sound recordings, Kahn's team set
about documenting aspects of human life as varied as the
topography of human needs, such as food and housing, the
geography of history, and that of land exploitation. In addition,
many autochromes depict famous personalities such as India's
Rabindranath Tagore, Greece's Nikolaos Politis and Britain's
James Ramsey MacDonald.
Some of the landmark photographs in The Archives of the Planet
include the first colour images of the Great Sphinx at Giza, the
Taj Mahal in India and the Great Wall of China.
Kahn went bankrupt as a result of the 1929 Stock Exchange
Crash and died in 1940.
The Archives of the Planet collection has
72,000 autochromes and over 170,000 metres of film footage. It
is now owned by the Upper Seine Department in France.
In 1913-1918 two of Kahn's photographers, Stéphane Passet and
Leon Busy, made trips to Bulgaria, mainly in the areas of Melnik
and Sofia. In total 66 autochromes of The Archives of the Planet
were produced in this country.
between two unpaved
streets lined with tall houses,
Melnik, 18 September 1913,
autochrome by Stéphane
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers