Gerbéviller, France

“La Tombe des Coloniaux, a heart of grass, near Gerbéviller,” April 28, 1915, by Georges Chevalier, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Départment of Hauts-de-Seine.

This seems to be the grave of a soldier (or perhaps soldiers) from one of the French Colonial Infantry Regiments. He probably fell in the Battle of Lorraine about seven or eight months before the photo was taken. Such men, called “Marines,” were recruited from both France and the white settler and indigenous populations of the French colonial empire.

The town of Gerbéviller itself had been caught in the same battle’s crossfire. German troops had systematically burned over 400 houses and killed over 60 inhabitants. It became “Gerbéviller-la-Martyre” in the press and a kind of pilgrimage site.

Today, there are both French and German WWI cemeteries in Gerbéviller.

This autochrome is one 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 photo (A 5 344) is © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

Clement’s Inn, London

pankhursts-on-roof-garden1908-lse-libraryChristabel and Emmeline Pankhurst on the roof at Clement’s Inn, London, October 1908, via LSE (London School of Economics) Library Commons on flickr. A note on the back of the photo says that they were hiding* from the police.

At the time of the photo, numbers 3 and 4 Clement’s Inn† housed the offices of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which Emmeline had founded in 1903. The organization was an all-female group campaigning for women’s suffrage and was known for its physical confrontations with police, hunger strikes, and arson. Christabel was Emmeline’s oldest daughter and eventually took over leadership of the group.  At the outbreak of WWI, both women called for a halt to WSPU militant activities in support of the war effort and became involved in the “white feather” movement, handing out the traditional symbol of cowardice to men in civilian clothes.

There’s an interesting history of the Pankhurst women (there were two more daughters, Sylvia and Adela) here.


* A warrant had been issued for their arrest.  After the photo was taken, they went down to the street and were arrested.

†Located about here. The Clement’s Inn buildings, built in the 1880s, were five to seven stories high and housed both offices and apartments.  They were all demolished by 1977. The photo above was taken from the roof garden of the apartment of another WSPU member.

The castle

smithsonian-castle-in-snow-1967-smithsonian-on-flickrSmithsonian Institution Building in the snow, Washington, D.C., 1967, photographer unknown, via Smithsonian Institution Commons on flickr.

Two to six inches of snow (and some sleet) are forecast for Washington today.

O! wonderful for weight and whiteness!
Ideolog whose absolutes
Are always proven right
By white and then
More white and white again. . .

— Tom Disch, from “Ode to a Blizzard

Vintage landscape: Parc Monceau

Colonnade dans le parc Monceau, la Naumachie, Paris (VIIIe arr.), France, 12 septembre 1923, (Autochrome, 9 x 12 cm), Auguste Léon, Département des Hauts-de-Seine, musée Albert-Kahn, Archives de la Planète, A 39 095 S
La Naumachie Colonnade in Parc Monceau, Paris, September 12, 1923, by Auguste Léon, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Départment of Hauts-de-Seine (both photos).

In Ancient Rome, a naumachia was a large basin dug for staging naval battles* as public entertainment. In Parc Monceau, La Naumachie is a tranquil oval pool framed on one end by a Corinthian colonnade.

Colonnade dans le parc Monceau, la Naumachie, Paris (VIIIe arr.), France, 12 septembre 1923, (Autochrome, 9 x 12 cm), Auguste Léon, Département des Hauts-de-Seine, musée Albert-Kahn, Archives de la Planète, A 39 089 S

The columns were once part of a never-completed late 16th century mausoleum attached to the Basilica of Saint Denis. In the late 1770s, they were acquired by the Duke of Chartres for an elaborate “Anglo-Chinese” public garden he was creating in northwest Paris. He filled it with architectural follies (see here) — one of them being a “Roman” colonnade.

The Duke was guillotined in 1793. His land was first confiscated and then returned to his heirs, who sold about half of it to developers. In the 1850s, the city bought the last 20 acres of the old garden, and Parc Monceau opened in 1861 as a largely informal “English-style” park. Today, there are still a few follies, although only the colonnade/naumachia and a small Egyptian pyramid remain from the 18th century.

The autochromes above are two of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker, 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.


*The word also refers to the spectacle itself.

words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photos (A 39 095 S and A 39 089) are © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.