Lens, France


Little house and garden of a coal minerLens, France, May 16, 1920, by Frédéric Gadmer, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine (all three photos).

The city of Lens, once home to the Lens Mining Company, was largely destroyed in World War I. The photo above shows post-war temporary workers’ housing.

Avion, just south of Lens, was similarly devastated. The photos above and below show new houses on Rue Pascal on June 14, 1921.

The front sides of the new houses on Rue Pascal.

Avion was un coron (a mining village) of the Liévin Company, which had 9,695 employees at the start of WWI.

You can see these homes today here.

These autochromes are three of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photos (A 21 376, A 27 779, A 27 788) are © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

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