In the 1909 the French millionaire banker and philanthropist, Albert Kahn, undertook an ambitious project concerning the creation of a photographic collection of the peoples, and for the peoples, of the whole world.
As an idealist, Kahn believed he could use the new process of autochromy, the first simplified and real-color photographic system in the world, to promote peace, cultural exchange and understanding between peoples.
Kahn used his great wealth to send a group of photographers to more than 50 countries around the world - including Albania - who are at a critical moment in their history, where secular cultures went through periods of great irreversible transformations because of the war and globalization of the twentieth century.
Photographers have documented in real color the fall of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires as well as the soldiers of the First World War in the trenches, while cooking or washing their uniforms behind the front. The first "mission" was planned by Professor Jean Brunhes in the Balkans.
The mission in the Balkans
It is not entirely clear where the Balkan mission began, but what is certain is that Jean Brunhes and Ogyst Leon were in Bosnia just before the outbreak of the first Balkan war in early October of the 1912 by photographically documenting Jajce, Mostar, Sarajevo and Banja Luka.
The following year they moved to Kosovo, where in May of the 1913 shots were made at Prishtina, Prizren, Lipljan and Gracanica. From Kosovo the team continued its journey to Skopje and Thessaloniki, where Leon took 69 autochromes of the city before moving to Bursa in Asia Minor.
The mission in Albania was held in the autumn of the 1913; Brunhes and Leon arrived in Durres from Montenegro around the 16 October 1913. This, in fact, is the first date of the Albanian "shots".
From Durazzo they crossed the Erzeni river, defended by Esad Pasha Toptani, and arrived in Tirana where they remained for two days. From Tirana, they returned to Durres where they left for Tivar in Montenegro, before arriving in Scutari on October 21 1913.
Shkodër, the last stronghold of the Ottomans in the Balkans, the 22 April 1913 fell into the hands of the Montenegrins and during the fighting a large part of the city had been destroyed. The incredible autochromes of the Kahn collection - 97 color photographs of theAlbania and 94 of the Kosovo - they are unique in the history of Albanian and Balkan photography.