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Title: Geography, Photography, The Cinema
Les Archives de la Planète (1)
Author: Sam Rohdie, Uploaded 15 September 1998 1
Geography, Photography, The Cinema
Les Archives de la Planète (1)
I want to thank you for inviting me here.
I am very pleased to be able to speak at the Royal Geographical Society so crucial for the development of geography at the beginning of the nineteenth century and one of the institutions which encouraged the development of geography as a science, promoted exploration and colonisation as practices, and in so doing helped usher in and shape the modern world. (2) Geography, as it developed in the nineteenth century, was central to the very idea of the modern with its hopes as well as its disappointments and pathos. Modernity has been two edged. On the one hand, an increase in wealth, technology, material progress. On the other hand, dramatic shifts in values and cultures, often the destruction of whole peoples and environments and for some, terrible, cruel poverty.
I have come here in all modesty for I am not a geographer, but an historian of the cinema, and, in particular of the Italian cinema post-1945, the cinema of Rossellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Pasolini. The only exploration I have done has been in books and libraries and amidst films. Nor am I particularly keen on travel.
The Italian cinema post-1945 and the subject of geography are not in fact that remote and unconnected. Italy, at the end of the war, was one of the poorest and least developed countries in Europe. Within just over a decade it became one of the most advanced countries. It catapulted into modernity traumatically and with violence. This transformation is reflected in Italian films. Recently, I wrote a book on Pasolini whose work crucially concerns the effects of modernisation particularly in the so-called Third World, in Africa, the Indian sub-continent, at home in the slums of Naples and amidst the poverty of the Italian South. In part, it has been Pasolini who has taken me by the hand and brought me to geography. (3)
I will be speaking to you about an extraordinary geographical archive in France, Les Archives de la Planète, begun in 1909 and active until 1931. (4) The archive is exclusively visual in its documentation: 72,000 autochromes, 180,000 metres of film, 4000 stereoscopic plates and a significant number of panoramic views. When I say exclusively visual, I mean that absolutely. There are no written records. The only evident classification system is by country. There are no further categories or subdivisions beyond the territorial blocs of "Vietnam", "Japan", "Cambodia", etc. My talk will centre on the Archives in relation to the modernisation of French society in the period 1870 to 1914, a period often referred to as la belle époque, nearly a half century of extraordinary prosperity and development. Geography, at least as an academic pursuit, is fundamentally formed during this time and helps form the modern, as it is a consequence of it, like the cinema.
Geography initiates, along with the sciences of anatomy, astronomy and optics in the seventeenth century, the dominance of the visual as opposed to the verbal. This year  at the Musée du Louvre, Vermeer's paintings, The geographer and The astronomer, were brought together for the first time in more than 300 years. These are paintings painted in a scientific spirit which privileged the visual as central to that spirit. The paintings are filled with extraordinary detail and light, and also filled with maps, globes, charts. Cartography and exploration were popular in seventeenth century Holland. Vermeer was the friend of Leeuwenhoek, who perfected the microscope, and Huygens, who perfected the telescope, the one an important anatomist, the other an important astronomer, both involved in optics. (5) Science, particularly the new modern sciences as they developed in the late Renaissance, sought to detail the facts of nature directly as opposed to the imposition of a metaphysics, religious or philosophical, upon nature. It thus embraced the apparent objectivity and therefore scientificity of the visual. That spirit is evident in the eighteenth century in the diaries of James Cook and the account of the voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. (6)
The visual had, though I think it may no longer have, an explosive, disruptive force. The visual and the directly observed challenged convention, confronted speculation with natural science. The voyage, scientific or not, to explore the surfaces of the earth, to encounter new geological formations, new flora and fauna, or new peoples, was a journey into the unknown and the exotic. For these reasons, it touched the unconventional. The unknown was linked to the visual and, as a consequence, to the objectivity of observed fact. Insofar as the fact, and especially the scientific fact, and thus "reality", challenged the established and the received, it evoked a realm of freedom. The journey to the exotic was a journey away from home, from the familiar and the secure, from "society" and the ties that bind. By leaving the social behind, one could enter not only the new and unfamiliar with the help of science, but into dream and fantasy as well. And, sometimes, by way of dream, fantasy and possession into fictions and the interior of oneself. Explorers and scientists sailed away not only to find new lands, but often to find new identities.
The writer of the voyage, even so cool and objective a one as Cook or Darwin, betrayed an autobiographical impulse, and a fictional one. The voyage of the Beagle and the Journals of Captain Cook are literary works. Darwin not only observed the Galapagos tortoise and the Fuegian savage, but his own self-awareness and coming of age.
It is in the ambiguous areas of the visual and the real, I think, that geography and fiction, geography and the cinema, as well as ethnography and the cinema, can be paired. The status of the document, of the fact, and the observation of these, were problems posed in the literature and cinema of travel and exploration as well as within the subject of geography and, more generally, within the natural and social sciences.
At this point, almost before I begin, I want to make a significant digression from the main argument and subject of this essay. The digression was only a phrase in the RGS lecture; here it constitutes nearly a third of the text. It is at once peripheral to my discussion of the Archives de la Planète, yet from another perspective crucial to it. It concerns the relation between geography, travel, painting, visualisation and the writing of fiction and in that sense extends to the relation between geography and the cinema, particularly during the early beginnings of the cinema. And because a relation is made between the visual and the geographical, it is fruitful for an understanding of contexts that shaped the Archives de la Planète.
However lengthy this digression, given the material it covers, it is brief, almost notational. I am trusting the reader will be patient and find the material interesting enough to be indulgent. The relations I suggest are rather indirect. They indicate considerable gaps and lacks of continuity in the phenomena I discuss, in the discursive practices called up and in the structure of my own argument. Nevertheless, I feel the digression is too productive to leave aside and too filled with possibilities not to signpost.
For those with a busy schedule, it simply can be skipped.
Digress /Continue on the main path
There is a considerable field difficult to name bordered at one end by the discursive practices of the sciences - biology, anatomy, physics, ethnography, sociology, geography - and by artistic practices both literary and visual touching fiction and autobiography, even the "confession". Travel literature and travel films often indicated the range and connections between these practices as they developed in the nineteenth century, indeed they were the location for overturning established conventions (social, literary, visual) and indicating new paths and forms: artistic, scientific, personal and psychological.
In France, throughout the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, there was an important and abundant literature of the "voyage", in particular, after 1830. These were voyages to Greece (the struggle for Greek independence from the Turkish Empire was crucial in opening up the Orient in all respects to Western Europe) and to the Near East including North Africa which kept apace with French colonial conquests, first in Egypt under Napoléon, then in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The writers were Chateaubriand, Delacroix, Dumas, Flaubert, Fromentin, Gautier, Maupassant, Nerval, and Verne. Sometimes science was mixed with fiction as with Verne, or observation with mythology as with Nerval and Chateaubriand. Or, the direct observation of things helped to form new styles of writing and painting as was the case with Fromentin, Delacroix, Dumas, Maupassant and Flaubert. (7)
The personal journal found full literary status in the period. At times it veered toward fiction and myth or became the source of these. It was Proust, I think, who was the heir to this practice of journal moving toward the fictional and which he brought to full realisation, and, in the process, transformed.
In the twentieth century the field of the exotic was extended to Asia and Africa with the extension of France's colonial empire into Indochina and West and Equatorial Africa. Here the writings of Claudel, Gide, Loti and Segalen are exemplary. (8)
I want to mark three instances, some with connections direct and indirect with the cinema.
Maupassant not only strived for this visual writing and was troubled by the inadequacy of words when faced with the immensity of what could be seen, but he theorised about such writing. (12) The writer-painters whom I have mentioned found in the exoticism of the Orient not only new objects to depict, and for which a new writing or painting style seemed required, but the journey to these places and the discovery of them constituted a personal and artistic liberation. Gautier, in 1845, wrote some passages on possession and the dance in Algiers where he and his language literally were possessed. Identity, meaning and boundary, for an instant at least, seemed lost and at risk confronted with the ecstasies of sound, colour, dance, bodies. (13) There is no better instance than these few pages in Gautier for understanding the late nineteenth century interest in movement, in new dance, in possession and mysticism, all of which had an important presence in the early history of the cinema as in the later history and practices of Surrealism and ethnography. (14) Gautier argued for "la peinture ethnographique" to revolutionise painting. (15)
The Romantic challenge to Neo-Classicism and its idealisations, including historical and mythological idealisations, was in part posed by a new realism and attention to new social, ethnic and geographical realities for which travel and Orientalism were important stimulations. This was not without scientific echoes in a new materialist and Positivist science characteristic of most of the nineteenth century with its stress on direct observation and visualisation and within which the subject of geography assumed pride of place. It is of extreme interest, I think, that an aspect of Delacroix's work revolved around movement and colour and the capturing of the flow and shimmering of light and drama, as well as the dialectic of perception and action, all of which makes his work wonderful to see and important for later modernist developments in painting especially those of the Impressionists.
2. In 1930-1931, there was an expedition to Africa sponsored by the Musée de l'Homme in Paris. The mission travelled across French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa from Dakar to Djibouti. It was led by the enthnographer, Marcel Griaule, who did important work among the Dogon. (18) The secretary of the mission was Michel Leiris, a Surrealist and later ethnographer, who, along with Georges Bataille, edited the journal Documents in 1929-1930. Documents, which has been recently reprinted, had articles on Picasso, Braque, primitive art, philosophy, ethnography and bull-fighting. (19) It touched upon and brought together areas of ethnography, painting, sculpture, sociology, Surrealism, the avant-garde. (18) See Marcel Griaule, Méthode del'ethnographie (Paris: Presses Universitairesde France, 1957) and also his Dieu d'eau (Paris: Libraire Arthème Fayard, 1966).
The first concerned the ethnographic 'document'and the 'art'of Africa and how these might be regarded. Was, for example, a cooking pot, not as relevant to an understanding of African society as a mask or a ritual sculpture and just as significant, if not as beautiful? And should sculpture not be considered as social document rather than as artistic object, an ethnographic question, but also a museum question. Or, rather, could the distinction between document and art actually be maintained and not only for primitive societies, but for our own? Second, what credence could one give to the observations of the ethnographer? How far was the ethnographer culturally and subjectively implicated in what was observed and in the manner by which these observations were reported? When such questions touched areas of myth and fiction, or when African interlocutors intentionally provided misleading information or denied the existence of sites and buried objects, and, when the ethnographer, like Griaule, invoked the powers of the colonial authority to loot tribal possessions for the Paris museum collection (much to the distress of Leiris and of the Africans), the relation of document to fact, and observer to observed, were inevitably raised and made uncertain. Third, Leiris'journal is intentionally a hodge-podge: ethnographic observations, philosophical remarks, existential and subjective reactions, quotations, literary citations, letters to his wife, political comments, reflections on the Parisian avant-garde and the Surrealists. These are accumulated in such a way so as to blur distinctions between the personal and objective, ethnography and fiction, science and experience, description and memory and also, of course, between journal and ethnography. These categories, and the category of time itself, commingled, also evident in the account of the Dakar-Djiboutimission in the Surrealist journal Minotaure. (21)
Leiris sometimes would enter directly, by the means of African objects and experiences, into areas of his desire, fantasy, dream and their fictionalisation. "L'Autre, c'est moi" (as in the 1958 Jean Rouch film, Moi, un noir), was a psychological relation and an imaginative, fictional, historical and mythical one which the travel journal condensed.
The movement and connectives in Leiris'journal look back to Freud, and forward, over a wide range, to figures like Lacan, Lévi-Strauss, Pasolini, Jean Rouch, Jean-Luc Godard, perhaps also Rivette. (22) Such bedfellows are discursive.
L'Afrique fantôme is an example of the scientific travel journal which has a lengthy literary and scientific tradition. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this genre of writing raised an issue which Bataille also raised, as did the Surrealists, involving the status of the document, the position of the subject, and the problem of observation. It simultaneously questioned the insights of science and the practices of art, particularly in painting and literature and it also questioned the assumptions of European superiority and rational thought.
Leiris'African journal exemplifies many of these positions, not only in what he speaks of, but in the form his journal takes.
The geography which the Archives de la Planète represents explicitly posed questions of fact and truth, document and significance and linked them to a notion of the visual and geography's photographic-cinematographic practices. These practices were ambiguous. On the one hand, naturalist and positivist: the photograph as documentary fact. On the other hand, subjective and relativist: the photograph as perspective and a moment of time. The visible and visibility, which related to the phenomena of movement and perception, were central nineteenth century concerns. These most dramatically culminated perhaps in Impressionism, but they belong also to geography, one of whose conceits was to photograph the world from a balloon, not only for the exemplary view, but for the position of being removed from the earth, at once in flight and objective, aloof and unencumbered. And because the view was a photographed view, it was assumed to be an objective one. Geography, in its claim to be a social science equal to the physical sciences, attempted to reduce the field of the subjective as evidence of its discursive scientificity. Photography, it believed, was not only the instrument of science, but the very essence of scientific method (recording, observation).
...let us imagine going up in a balloon or an airplane some hundreds of metres
above the ground; and, the mind delivered from all it knows of man, tries
to see and to record the essential facts of human geography with the same
eyes and the same look which allows us to discover and sort out the morphological,
topographical, hydrographic traits of the earth's surface. From this hypothetical
observatory, what do we see? Or better yet, what are the human facts that
a photographic plate could register as well as could the retina of the eye?
Central to this expression is the division of the machine eye and the human eye, of the objective and the subjective, so important to the work of Marey and the experiments of Muybridge, and in general, part of nineteenth century debates and practices regarding photography and the issue of artistic expression and objective science. It was a central issue, for example, in Baudelaire's criticism of the claim that photography was an art. He believed photography to be properly a tool of science because of its reproductive capacity and realism. Its objectivity, by confining the personal, disqualified it as artistic expression. (24)
The geographical quotation also looks to Vertov's Kino-eye and debates within the European avant-garde which surfaced in Leiris'and Bataille's Documents concerning the ethnographic and museum "fact" and the status of the artistic object. It was not simply that Braque or Picasso had aestheticised primitive masks and ritual objects for Western painting, but that these masks and statues posed questions for the conventions of Western art as the experience of the Orient had done a century earlier for Western painting and literature. It was as if modernism had found its soul in Africa and Oceania as the technology of that modernism made possible the voyages of Western discovery (the canal, steamships) and devastated the cultures discovered even, and sometimes especially, in the scramble to preserve them, for example, Griaule's looting of Africa for the sake of the Musée de l'Homme.
When, in the nineteenth century, painters availed themselves of the objective accuracy of the photograph it was to retranslate the vision of the machine back into the vision and expression of the artist's eye. One can see in these practices the problem of the subject and of time rising up to compromise a Positivist objectivity, a problem treated by Bergson in philosophy and which the cinema would negotiate in its complexity.
[ It is difficult not to think of Hitchcock in this regard whose sensibilities were formed in the early 1920s. Hitchcock is famous for overcoming plausibility and mocking significance: the Hitchcock "MacGuffin", on which the energies and fears of his characters (and his audience) centre, means nothing. It is an empty sign, a mere gimmick. Hitchcock succeeded in overcoming plausibility by involving the spectator-subject in a drama in which subjectivity is brought so intensely into play that plausibility and the referent are the least of a spectator's worry, when, for example, MacGuffin or not, the President of an obscure Republic will be assassinated and "Hank", Doris Day's little boy, will be throttled (The man who knew too much , 1955).
Hitchcock is heir to the theatrical melodrama, a nineteeth century form which endangered the stability of the subject by placing the subject on the edges of time and then dashing, or threatening to dash, hope and desire. 'Suspense' is a melodramatic heightening based on bad timing in a play between certainty and uncertainty, desire and fear, inevitability and possibility. Hitchcock perfectly blends objective clarity (the audience seldom if ever is kept in the dark) and subjective instability (it is the knowing that is so unnerving).]
Some of these matters were involved in the early cinema in the categories of vue and actualités and the development within these categories of codes of narration, forms of fictionalisation, of theatricalisation and the spectacle. The reconstituted actualités of Georges Méliès and the studio of Charles Urban are important in this regard. (25)
When Jean-Luc Godard spoke of "Lumière, mon frère", the leap in time of cinematic kinship, in part had to do with Godard's interest in the shifting relations between fiction and documentary and the problems created by these shifting relations between objective reality and subjective feelings, an actual state and a constructed one.
"In the end, there are no half measures. It is either reality, or it is fiction. Either one stages, or one reports. Either one chooses reality, or chance. Either construction, or taking things from life. And what then? Because after choosing resolutely one side or the other, one automatically falls back on the opposite....All the great fiction films tend towards documentary as all the great documentaries tend toward fiction." (26)
"For me, an anthropologist and a film-maker, there exists practically no boundaries between documentaries and films of fiction. The cinema, the art of the double, is already a transition from the real world towards the imaginary one and anthropology, the science of the systems of thought of the other is permanently at the crossroads of the conceptual universe of the other, a kind of acrobatic balancing where losing ones footing is not the least of risks. (28)
The presence of the observer is never neutral. Whether he wants to or not, he is integrated into the general movement and even his most minimal reactions need to be understood in relation to this system of thought. (29)
Rouch's cinema, like Leiris'journal, is a type of ethnographic travelogue where observer and observed, subject and object, narrator and narrated, fiction and document, truth and fantasy, and thus identity, are not only placed in crisis, but whose very positions are reversed, explicitly in Moi, un noir (1957) and disturbingly in Les ma”tres fous (1953-1954). But is there not a similar sense, admittedly with somewhat different ends, in Hitchcock? Is not James Stewart in Rear window (1954) a rather overly involved ethnographer-photographer? And is there not a hint of murder in his relation with Grace Kelly? Hence his interest in the murderer getting rid of an inconvenient wife and then placing Kelly in that position in the murderer's flat? "Moi, un assassin?"
In the first decade of the cinema, a substantial percentage of the films listed in the catalogues of the major French film studios - the Lumières, Pathé, Gaumont - were classified as geographical, appearing under such headings as "Angleterre" and "vues d'Indochine". These were films of voyages and encounters with the exotic, films of actualités. The actual, the real, the exotic, the geographical were synonymous and interchangeable. It is not difficult to see how from geography and geographical films, it was only a step toward narrative fiction and spectacle. Two of the most important anthropological-travel-documentary film-makers of the 1920s, who made Grass (1925), Chang (1927) and Rango (1931), Ernest Schoedsack and Merian Cooper, also made The most dangerous game in 1932 and King Kong in 1933. Cooper became the producer of many of John Ford's westerns. And of course, perhaps above all, there are the films of Flaherty.
To find significance elsewhere in the history of the cinema, for example, in geography, in the concept and practice of the archive, the museum, the encyclopaedia, in travel literature, in painting, in ethnography, in banking and colonialism, is to expand the boundaries of the history of the cinema. By opening up the subject of geography to the cinema perhaps another lock might turn and the study of the cinema thereby opened up to the entry of unaccustomed discourses, not least that of a wider history.
3. Joseph Conrad wrote fiction and non-fiction. Many of his writings were situated in an exotic setting and had forms approaching the travel journal. In The mirror of the sea (1906), he wrote of the beauty of sailing ships about to be replaced by steam, and the qualities of courage and skill the sailing ship demanded, qualities, he felt, equally demanded of the writer. There was the implication that the skills of both, writer and seaman, were being threatened by modernity and technical advance. The going forward technologically involved the loss of things left behind spiritually, a common enough theme in the literature of the exotic and in photography and cinema: the pathos of John Ford's films in the passing of the West, the loss of community, the loss and loneliness of the hero. It was also a theme and a motive in the subjects of ethnography and geography wanting to record physical and human traces before they disappeared forever, obliterated by progress. It was, for example, an explicit reason for the establishment of Les Archives de la Planète.
Conrad sailed these ships as he commanded a prose able to incorporate the exterior voyage with an interior one. His Heart of darkness (1899) is exemplary. The novel became a literary model and reference for journeys of writers to Africa, particularly of the avant-garde, and particularly by the French. The French translation of Heart of darkness ( Coeur des ténèbres) was not until 1926. That year André Gide travelled to the Congo with Marc Allégret. Allégret made a film during the trip, Voyage au Congo (1926). The film was signed jointly with Gide helping it to attract an audience. Gide wrote a journal, also entitled Voyage au Congo, dedicated "À la mémoire de Joseph Conrad". Gide's journey was primarily literary in inspiration. He not only travelled to write, but he observed what he saw through literary forms and citations, Corneille as well as Conrad.
Literary filters coloured Gide's African landscapes and the setting of the African sun. In France, he had dreamt of the Congo. In the Congo, his dreams were primarily of France. His bearers not only carried him through the Congo, but dragged along his books. Leiris, in his 1931 Dakar-Djiboutijournal, made extensive references to Heart of darkness and the Gide/Allégret voyage is referred to in François Truffaut's La peau douce (1964) and indirectly in Jacques Becker's Rendez-vous de juillet (1949).
What fascinated Gide and Leiris in Heart of darkness, I think, was not simply the dissolution of the boundaries of document and fiction, and the intrusion of the diary into fictional forms, but, as well, its double narration and the embedded story which mirrored the story of its own production. Heart of darkness is the story of a journey whose significance and outline remain blurred and uncertain. A particular fascination of it is its indeterminate, ambivalent referent, unmoored and adrift, analogously floating between the ship of the narrator, the ship of Marlow, and the unfathomable Kurtz. What in fact is there at the heart of darkness? For Gide and for Leiris this was the journey of writing itself... and of the writer. Conrad is explicit in this regard in his autobiographical A personal record (1912), which, while reflecting upon autobiography and fiction, truth and imagination, observation and language, does not merely speak of these relations, but exemplifies them. The objectivity of his autobiography resides in the area of the personal - what he did and thought - and yet for Conrad the means to reach the personal was the fictional. Fiction undermined and enriched the autobiographical form he used. Fiction simultaneously placed personal truth in doubt but also revealed it and never more accurately than when Conrad was most fictional in his accounting. As he said, he was after all a writer.
Neither the Congo of Gide's journal nor the Congo of Allégret's film seem ever to quite reach their subject as if, though they are travelling in the Congo, it is their memory and the play of analogy that so intrudes into their present as to make it seem that they are elsewhere or at least that where they are is dream. It is in any case a fictional effect perhaps built into writing and filming which neither Gide nor Allégret can resist. (30)
Michel Butor used the journals of Captain Cook as an inspiration and entry into the uncertainty of writing. Butor quoted the journals in his Courrier des Antipodes, fictitious letters written to his wife from Australia. Butor rewrote the journals of Cook and recast them having Cook sometimes utter what Cook had not described as Butor fashioned Aboriginal myths the Aborigines had not imagined. The writer became the Other, real and invented. This shifting between the two poles of true document and the imaginary was also true for his accounts of Australia, Cook, and the Aborigines. Butor set his writing to a musical structure, writing not only composed but structurally predetermined. I found the letters to be one of the most accurate accounts of Australia. The contrived forms are preconditions for discovering the true shape of reality as metre in poetry can be a means to disengage the truth and fiction can serve as its principal instrument. (31)
Back to the Main Path
I will be concentrating this evening on the 72,000 autochromes in the Kahn Archives. The autochrome is a colour photograph on a glass plate coated with light sensitised potato granules in three colours. The autochrome was invented by the brothers Lumière who worked on the process for more than fifteen years. It was commercialised by them in 1907 and proved immensely popular. The Lumières, of course, were the first to project a moving image before an audience and are thus credited with having "invented" the cinema. They also invented colour photography and perfected the panorama and stereoscopy. (32)
The cinema was incidental to the Lumière's research and commerce. And, besides, they reportedly regarded the cinema as a novelty without a future unlike their regard for the autochrome. Compared to the invention of the autochrome, which took so many years to perfect, the invention of the cinema was not a difficult birth.
The Archives belong to L'Espace Albert Kahn run by the local authority just outside Paris in Boulogne-Bilancourt on the Seine opposite St. Cloud. It was, in its entirety, Kahn's private residence from the late 1880s, when he acquired it, until his death in 1940. It consists of a museum, Le Musée Albert Kahn, and a department of conservation, both set in a 3 1/2 hectare garden, a flora league of nations built by Kahn over a period of twenty years. The gardens are dominated by a Japanese garden with miniature bridges over tiny streams, traditional lanterns, pebbled paths, a Japanese house, magnolias and flowering cherry trees. There is a French and an English garden, a Vosges forest (Kahn was originally from Alsace), a Blue Forest, a Golden Forest, and a diminutive marsh.
The main room of the conservation department, roughly 30x12 metres with approximately 10 metre high ceilings, is lined by enclosed shelves which go around the room and up to its full height. The shelves are filled with wooden boxes containing the autochromes, about card index size, though more square than rectangular. Each image is unique, positive and fragile. The autochrome can be copied on celluloid or printed, but not reproduced. It is important to mention - and I will return to this later - that the photographic images of the Archives are in colour autochromes. Aside from the stereoscopic plates and the panoramic views there are virtually no black and white still images.
The boxes are marked by country. The Kahn opérateurs brought back images, moving and still, from 48 countries or French colonial territories around the world during the 22 years the Archives operated. The museum regularly holds exhibits based on its autochrome and film collections, generally adopting the inherited system of classification by country as marked on the boxes, for example, exhibits on China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ireland, Japan, Turkey or the Auvergne rather than, say, on patterns of agriculture.
The exhibits tend to be tautological. They indicate, for example, that this is Japan and in Japan there are Japanese and the Japanese have Japanese temples and live in Japanese houses. Strictly speaking, though the Archives was directed by a geographer, Jean Brunhes, and was geographical in intent, few of the museum exhibits are easily classified as geographical save for a recent exhibition on the work of Brunhes. The other exhibits, fundamentally, provide images from a given country in the 1910s or 1920s along with historical indications and descriptions of monuments, sites and local customs, for example, ritual sacrifice in Dahomey, traditional dances in Cambodia. The museum uses the Archives within a museum culture to mount popular exhibitions. It has directed its research to these ends rather than directly interrogating the structure of the Archives which it employs, a structure which is problematic and open to question, which is, perhaps, one of the more fascinating aspects of the Archives.
The Archives, as it was formed, and in its practices, offers little help to the museum from the point of view of geography because of the absence of written records or an evident elaborated structure. National or colonial units do not constitute such a structure, indeed, as we will see, they are the very contrary of it. There are notebooks, but they are no more than post and shipping lists. They indicate the arrival at Boulogne-Bilancourt of autochromes as they were sent by the opérateurs from around the world. They are records of the receipt of packages, an inventory, not a classification.
Visual images are insignificant without a narrative attached to them or an interpretative structure to classify and give them sense. Aside from knowing place, subject, date of the images, they are not much more than unexplained fragments of space and fragments of time. Photographs are not self-evident. Aside from declaring that this is a geographical archive, and that it was directed by one of France's most important geographers, Jean Brunhes, exactly what these images mean, how they relate to a geography, is not clear. It is that lack of clarity perhaps that has given the Musée such freedom.
Kahn was exceedingly modest. He collected or caused to have collected tens of thousands of images, but there is only one photograph of him, and that realised with difficulty, a snapshot on the balcony outside of his office in Paris. Kahn was only reluctantly photographed. He can be picked out in a few group photographs in Japan with Japanese dignitaries, but often his head is averted from the camera, almost as if he were hiding. There are fleeting glimpses of him in occasional film footage, one of him playing with a dog in China. He obscured his person from view. This reluctance was not only visual.
Much of Kahn's philanthropy - and he was one of the great philanthropists of France - was done anonymously and almost all of it was linked directly or indirectly to education. Though he involved himself intimately in his projects, including the Archives, these were administered and directed by others, primarily by the Sorbonne and the Collège de France. His own presence was concealed or effaced.
Kahn was Jewish from Alsace. Alsace and parts of Lorraine had been ceded to Prussia after the 1870 war. Kahn came to Paris in 1879 to work as a modest employee in the merchant bank Goudchoux. He made wise investments into South African gold and diamonds, principally in De Beers, during a period when banking investments on the capital market were extremely profitable and returns often astonishingly high as they were for Kahn. By 1892, he had become the director of the Goudchoux bank and by 1895 one of the richest men in Europe. M. Goudchoux was also from Alsace and Jewish. After the war, many Alsations chose to remain French in nationality and resettled within the boundaries of the territorially diminished French State. The Kahn family moved to St Mihier in the Meuse. The Jews generally embraced the egalitarian, universalist, secular and liberal values of the French Third Republic. They identified with the most progressive ideological aspects of the French State and its most liberal and progressive institutions, like banking and education, in which they entered and prospered. Though anti-semitism had been a traditional feature of European society since the medieval period, it had a renewed impetus in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth which had to do with the association of Jews with modernisation and secularisation. They became principal targets of groups and institutions like the Church most disturbed by the transformation of French traditional society and its values. The universities, the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, and intellectuals generally were Republican and Dreyfusards.
In the forefront of French economic development in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the colonial enterprise linked to it, was French finance capital. The banking system had been modernised during the Second Empire. Two principal banking sectors emerged: the commercial merchant bank, like the Rothschild bank and, on a more modest scale, the Goudchoux bank, and the savings bank or banks of deposit, like the Crédit Lyonnais. After the 1870s, new systems of credit, investment, loan flotations and equity trading helped to expand these sectors of finance capital and enormously increase banking profits.
Late nineteenth century industrial development in France, the expansion and export of capital, and the growth of the French colonial empire were dependent on this modernisation of finance capital. From 1905, in particular, new investment banks were created, some through bank mergers between merchant banks, others by mergers and joint ventures between merchant and deposit banks. The banks were investors in colonial development and heavy industry. They were instrumental in successfully pressuring for a colonial policy in which economic development was to be in the hands of private companies, concessionaires and banks rather than the colonial administration.
Profitablity in the merchant banking sector and especially that involved in the financing of trade and development in the Far East and in Russia, realised annual profits during the period 1896-1914 as high as 80 per cent and averaging between 35 and 70 percent. For example, shares in the Banque d'Indochine in the period 1901-1910 increased in value by a staggering 1400%. Companies benefiting from a colonial monopoly were in an especially advantageous position. The Charbonnages du Tonkin, for example, in 1913, registered a profit of just under 85%. Slightly lower returns were realised by French concessionaire companies in French Equatorial Africa (AEF) and French West Africa (AOF), on the order of 40%. (33)
Details of Kahn's fortune and financial dealings are imprecise and conjectural. Aside from investments in South African gold and diamonds, he had investments in Japan, Indochina and China and in mining companies in the Congo. (34) He wrote very little and there are apparently no personal records. As with the Archives, Albert Kahn is practically without written documentation.
As late as 1896, most of French industry (83%) employed less than 5 workers. The number of factories employing more than 50 workers was small (only 1.3%). The Lumière factory was exceptionally large. At the time when its workers featured as the protagonists of the 'first'film, La sortie des ouvriers de l'usine Lumière (1895), the Lumière factory had more than 900 workers. The atelier and artisanal modes of production, or a combination of the atelier and factory, much of which was dispersed and rural, dominated industrialisation à la française. Heavy industrialisation was post 1896: electricity, steel, cars, rubber, chemicals. Celluloid was the result of a chemical process.
The Congo investment was FF4m. French industry was small scale, and self-financing. In part for these reasons, and for the relatively low returns on capital investment within France, French banking tended to go overseas. Much of that investment was through French government guaranteed loans and bond issues. Banking, then, was closely connected to the French State and to its political-international policies and interests. Political alliances and pressures were tied to loans and investments, for example, French investments in Russia and Italy. (35)
The bulk of French investments were in Europe, most in Russia. Only a small percentage, around 9% during the period, was in the French colonial empire. The Empire grew significantly only after 1876, from 900,000 square kilometres and 6 million inhabitants in 1876 to10 million square kilometres and 55 million inhabitants by 1898. Some of that growth was in Africa, some in the Far East. Indochina, Cambodia and Cochinchina were brought within the sphere of French protection during the period of the Second Empire before 1870. After a series of wars with China, Tonkin and Annam were annexed in 1885, Laos in 1893, Siam in 1896. France, like Britain and other European powers, as well as Japan, was involved in the break up of China by the direct seizure of territory, and by the establishment of economic-legal concessions and protectorates along the Chinese coast. The 'opening up'of China provided economic benefits to French banking, the security of which was guaranteed by French political and military protection within the areas of concessions.
By the late 1880s, pressure increased on the French government from French banking and industry for a committed colonial policy, especially one favourable to the exploitation of colonial areas by private companies, sometimes, as in the Congo, a policy of pillage. The industrial pressure came especially from the new heavy industries of steel, rubber, chemicals and building materials linked to infrastructure development of railways, ports, canals, bridges to open up an agricultural interior, markets and coastal trade facilities. The banks were the capital source for this development. (36)
From 1896, with the security of colonial possession, Western banks in general, including French banks, expanded into Asia, particularly China, Indochina and Japan. Western banks became the source for financing east-west trade and a colonial-metropolitan type development eg the growth and exploitation of extractive industries, like rubber and coal in Indochina.
Japan, was a case apart. It initiated its own economic-industrial revolution along with radical changes in its social and political structures and in its military, partially as the means to resist direct Western imperialist penetration as occurred in China and Indochina. Japan became a competitor and sometimes partner of Western imperialism in China. It also became a profitable area for Western investment into infrastructure, industrialisation and military armaments especially after Japan's war with China in 1895 and its more costly war with Russia in 1905. Kahn's bank belonged to a consortium of banks providing capital for Japanese development. His trips to Japan in 1909, where he spent nearly a month, and to China, where he spent three weeks, were directly connected to his banking interests. He was instrumental in providing loans to Japan after both the 1895 and 1905 wars, in the latter instance, to help rebuild the Japanese military.
As France developed its economic and industrial structures, particularly after its defeat in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war, so too did it develop and reform its educational institutions, in part out of economic necessity, in part for the belief that there were universal values like liberty and equality for which education was a prerequisite as it was for the digging of canals. The two activities were linked. To dig canals, improve communication, invest in industrialisation and spur development were part of a progressive process which included the universalist liberal values enshrined by the Revolution and to which the French Third Republic was committed.
I saw a compilation film at the 1995 Hong Kong Film Festival made by the Musée Albert Kahn consisting of material shot in China in 1909, by Kahn's chauffeur, Albert Dutertre. Kahn and Dutertre travelled together around the world (in 120 days), going west across the United States, then crossing the Pacific, principally staying in China and Japan. The trip was principally a business trip. Dutertre played Passepartout to Kahn's Phineas Fogg. I do not think I am inventing this Jules Verne model. After all, if you look carefully at traveller's tales, written or in film, not only do they have fictional elements, but they often take their models from literature as if the real to be real needs to conform to the literary, as today, people seek out sights that they have seen in picture postcards, to confirm the reality of the postcard.
Dutertre, like Verne, was obsessed with time tables, schedules, means of transport and sardines in tins, of which he seemed particularly fond. I was fascinated by the film footage. I saw a China which no longer existed, passing in front of me from the back of a train compartment, as if I were there, and seeing it from angles and perspectives as much part of the past as the huge fortress walls surrounding Beijing are part of the past and now no longer. These were Western images, some in the style of the French Impressionists. Chinese history and Chinese sites were rewritten, re-presented, absorbed and possessed within a Western history. And that history, among other things belongs to a history of banking, and hence also of colonialism.
Philanthropy is never disinterested. Early nineteenth century philanthrophy was moral and individualist. It sought to improve the character of individuals and hence to improve society. One can see it at work in the prison system. For example, in Australia, where I come from, particularly in Tasmania, which the British had converted into a vast prison camp at the end of the eighteenth century, beginning of the nineteenth, graduated punishments and rewards were instituted according to the behavior of the criminal. One advanced or descended in prison toward or away from freedom, toward or away from the hell of lashes and excruciating labour. Conduct books were kept, as at school, to chart moral progress. If you misbehaved you moved down the scale, if you behaved, you moved upwards.(37)
Toward the end of the century, the site of change and betterment shifted from the individual toward society. This shift was intimately connected to industrialisation which was transforming society into an object, even into something alien. New sciences developed which contributed to these changes and also sought to understand them. These took society, not the individual, as their object of study. Positivism and Social Darwinism were pre-eminent in this change, and also, perhaps, Marxism. Progress was defined not as moral, but as social, not as belonging to the individual, but to society and social groups. It was within this context that the social sciences were born in the latter third of the nineteenth century: sociology, anthropology and geography. Geography in France shifted away from physical geography, where the surfaces of the earth simply were a field for mapping, exploration and possession, to become a human science which enquired into the interaction of man with the environment and the physical traces made by men on the globe. This shift had in part to do with the power to alter the environment given by nineteenth century industrialisation and the machine, to dam rivers and move mountains. (38)
The social sciences developed from within the discipline of History. History itself had begun to alter, becoming less a narrative of individuals and moral improvement to becoming structural, social and environmental. It was already evident in Michelet's Histoire de la revolution française, Histoire de France and his Introduction à l'histoire universelle: "l'histoire est d'abord toute géographique". Michelet's history stood firmly within geography. "Without a geographical foundation...the people, the historical actor seems to be walking on air, as in those Chinese paintings where the ground is lacking." (39)
These changes were reflected in philanthropy. Late nineteenth century French philanthropy centred on education. It coincided with educational reforms in France after 1870 to make education more scientific, more rational, more social and environmental, and secular. The new education centred on society as the object that needed to be improved, not the person, in the sense that social improvement, the progress of society, would improve the individual. It was not an education directed to self improvement or one morally defined, but an education designed to inform the individual about society and direct energies in a social direction. In the educational reforms in France post-1870, geography had pride of place for three reasons. It was environmental and social and thereby humanistic. It could assert its scientific credentials because of its connection to physical geography and thereby seemingly validate its findings by science, or at least science as Positivism defined it. More than the other social sciences, geography seemed more scientific, hence more truthful and objective. Part of this objectivity was related to its visualness. Brunhes defined human geography as primarily visual and photography as its scientific method. And, it was ideologically conservative, which accorded with the politics of the Third Republic.
There was an additional reason for geography's importance. The French defeat in 1870 was attributed in part to the superiority of German geography. Cartography is of major military importance. German geography not only possessed cartographic skills, but the German school of geography was particularly interested in the relation of physical geography, elements like terrain and climate, to human elements, habitation and roads, and also the effect of war, the suitability of given locations for troop movements, for vehicle mobility, and the technical capacity to reshape physical terrain with bridges, roads, trenchs, dams, etc. The military superiority of the Germans was an argument made after 1870 for the need to develop French geography teaching in schools and universities.
The model for French geographical teaching after 1870, in particular for the school of French géographie humaine was German geography which had enormous prestige in France after the Franco-Prussian war, all the more so perhaps for the loss of Alsace and parts of Lorraine for which an expanded colonial empire in the Far East and in Africa were in part considered compensation. Geography, of course, is the science par excellence of imperialism. There was a huge expansion in France of geographical societies after 1870 (the largest in the world). They operated principally as direct colonial pressure groups.
Much of the material in the Archives comes from French colonial possessions or spheres of French economic interest. Four of the opérateurs of the Archives were connected either with the French colonial service or with the French military: Léon Busy was a Quartermaster Lieutenant in the French colonial army in Hanoi; Lucien Le Saint worked for the French army's Section Cinématographique created in 1915; Paul Castelnau worked for the army Section Photographique in 1919, later serving as the cinematographer for the Citroën expeditions across Africa (1924-1925) and China (1931-1932); Fernand Cuville also worked for the Section Photographique in 1917. The associations between cinema and photography on the one hand, and geography, the military and colonialism on the other, are of immense importance.
It was in many instances the economic and social power of Kahn that enabled his opérateurs to work as they did. Kahn had contacts in the colonial service, with the army, and with the rich and powerful in foreign countries, for example, in Japan.
Both the French educational system and the philanthropists who contributed to it, bankers like Kahn, were committed to progress, rationality, science and change, but in an orderly manner, that is, in a manner not to disturb traditional structures and habits, but to build on these. It was not conservative nostalgia, but conservative progress. Neither Kahn nor the French State, nor its educational institutions, wanted to encourage, by the forward march of progress, dissension from below or Bonapartism from above. The social sciences were as much about social engineering as about social study. And though the French Republic, founded in 1870, enshrined within it the heritage of the French Revolution, it was a revolution transformed in a liberal direction, stripped of social revolutionary force, which, for the Third Republic, was a disruptive force. The social sciences were crucial for the domestication of society and in a manner not unlike the domestication of revolutionary ideals by the Third Republic. Not only did educational reforms take a secular and social science path, but one in line with a social conservatism. Education was directed toward training an elite who in turn would be the future leaders of society.
The links between capital, philanthropy and education were formalised by legislation in 1885 which enabled private donations to public education. It provided the incentive for private endowments of scholarships, chairs, foundations, institutes, centres and buildings within the major universities. Kahn's philanthropy was a direct consequence of this Republican legislation and the embodiment of its ideology.
The conservatism of the French Republic in geographical terms, was expressed in policies of decentralisation and regionalism. These were opposed to the centralising tendencies of the Napoleonic State which had become the heritage of a Socialist left which wanted a strong reformist State, and of a reactionary Right which wanted a strong leader and social order. Decentralisation and regionalism belonged to policies of development that would take cognisance of regional differences as occurring within natural frameworks, physically and socially, rather than within an imposed, centralised uniformity. The pattern of industrialisation à la française contributed to such regionalist thinking, as opposed to colonialism à la française which was transformative of local cultures, social patterns and political boundaries. It was not that this geographical regional politics was less ideological than the militant commitments of French socialism, but rather that its ideology was seemingly more technicist and committed to social engineering. It was also apparently politically neutral.
The situation was somewhat more complicated than I have indicated, especially with regards to the various strands in the French socialist tradition. Both the Paris Commune, and the French Third Republic, which violently repressed the Commune, represented two different, opposed positions towards the tradition of the French Revolution. The Republic embraced the libertarian, bourgeois aspects of the Revolution, a tempering of social reform with political order; the Commune, was more directly socialist and identified with the working class. It called not primarily for social order and egalitarian legal rights, but for social and economic equality which the Revolution may have promised, but did not achieve. The political positions of the Commune were radically decentralist. It presented a policy statement on national decentralisation to be organised on the basis of independent local communes, locally governing, adhering to one another by contract to guarantee the national unity of the State. (40)
French geography as it developed after 1870 was central to the policies of
the Third Republic and to its educational reforms. The geography was known
as La géographie humaine (human geography). Its central concept
was that of genres de vie.(43) It was developed by Paul Marie-Joseph Vidal
de la Blache, virtually the founder of French geography, whose ideas are still
current in French geography today. (44) Jean Brunhes was his pupil and a commited
vidalien. (45) The Archives de la Planète are vidalien in inspiration.
La géographie humaine - both Brunhes and Vidal wrote books with
these titles - concerned the interaction of the physical environment, social
organisation and historical change in reshaping the physical surfaces of the
earth, that is, in socialising the earth. This was a geography about human
settlement and its physical traces, not about rivers, but about canals and
dams. French geography, though reliant on an earlier German geography, the
anthropological geography of Carl Ritter, Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich
Rätzel, was less determinist than German geography, and though deriving
from a particular French assembly of Darwinian evolutionism and Lamarckian
selection, was less individualist than either, certainly than Darwin. Darwinism,
as it extended into a social realm, had implications that were far from conservative.
Vidal and Brunhes were regionalists and important figures in the Fédération
Régionaliste Française launched in 1900. (46) Vidal wrote
a classic study of the regions of France, Tableau de la géographie
de la France, and prepared a report for the Third Republic called "Régions
Françaises". This geography is the key to understanding the Archives
de la Planète.
La géographie humaine turned upon two central concepts: milieu and genres de vie. It is a geography of the interaction of the social and historical with the natural and the physical, man and the environment. Milieu refers to the natural given environment of climate, topography, resources and genres de vie refers to the type of existence human societies shaped with those givens. Vidal characterised various types of genres de vie over a global-historical range: types of agriculture, types of habitation and construction, types of settlement and agglomeration. These were categorised by terms such as Mediterranean, American, European, Asiatic which defined a geographical area and also a species of civilisation. (47)
The framework was progressive and libertarian and while it conformed to a general libertarian faith of the late nineteenth century central to which were the achievements of high capitalism and its science and technology, it is precisely at this point that vidalien geography becomes questionable and its scientific-geographical ambitions impaired. Though the idea of transformation is crucial within genres de vie so too is adaptation and a view of human beings - and thus of human society - as having an organic-biological essence. It is at this point that human geography strays from the social sciences back towards the natural sciences. While Vidal gives precedence to the human component in genres de vie, the force of nature is not only to be reckoned with, but to be negotiated and brought into equilibrium. Transformation therefore is tempered by the establishment of a harmony and balance between nature and culture as the key to liberty.
What is absent from this framework, which is only apparently historical, are developed concepts of the political, the State or social struggle, that is, it seems to be locked into a pre-capitalist historical epoch which, while celebrating the technological, scientific and economic achievements of high capitalism, does so without consideration of its social-institutional structures, including its economic ones. As we shall see, when this geography strayed into areas of the political it tended to be regionalist, predominantly rural in focus, and technicist rather than institutional or social. And, as we shall see further, the visual evidence of the Archives de la Planète perfectly exemplifies this view, and perhaps even more radically than Vidal's or Brunhes' writings, since images of a modernising capitalism, while not totally absent, are largely absent compared to images of rural life and traditional ways. It is not the factory which predominates or even the combine harvester and plough, but the bullock cart, the donkey and the curragh.
The ideal society it seemed for the Archives - and I am convinced this was true for Kahn - is Japan, at once feudal and capitalist, geishas and bankers, above all orderly: respect for authority, social peace, social harmony or so the images of the Archives suggest as does the garden of Albert Kahn. He did business with the Japanese, but his admiration for Japan and his considerable social involvement with the Japanese aristocracy and military was of a different order than mere commerce.
Where the full force of modern capitalism appears visually in the Archive collection is interestingly enough in the devastation of Europe caused by the First World War. The war is one of the fruits of capitalism and the destruction caused by war was easily transformed from a social understanding to an ethical judgement whereas an understanding of the geographical-social-political system which made those fruits bear would have required a different set of analytical tools and a different politics. There were three principal, and connected, ideological positions implicit in the Archives collection.
First, was the need to temper change with stability. Second, was to see the key to that balance and thus the key to social and political order in regionalism. Third, was to affirm a notion of human freedom and choice, within acceptable sustainable limits for which the concepts of environment and space were crucial.
The politics of Brunhes'geography and of the Archives are fundamentally derived from biology. Man is depicted as belonging to a species analogous to plant and animal species, and though elements of free will and choice enter, they enter within a paradigm of nature and culture to the detriment of social and historical relations. The stress is on the biological notion of adaptability. It is the environment not history that is ultimately crucial. History is invoked, but then absorbed within a biological structure. This effacement of politics and history for a biological model in Brunhes'human geography, within which statements about harmony, balance, adaptation dominate, propose a politics which is overwhelmingly technicist. Problems are not about conflicting social-political interests, that is they are not conceived as political problems, but about correct or incorrect decisions based on rationality and science, a late Saint-Simonism. Hence, the privileged roles of elites to guide society along proper, progressive paths. And hence too, the privileged place of the social sciences, geography above all, to guide them in their choices. It is no wonder that a banker, like Kahn, would be concerned with economic development, industrial progress and social order and see the education of elites as central to achieving these aims. Nor is it a wonder that vidalien geography formed part of Kahn's interests and that these were administered by a human geographer and vidalien like Jean Brunhes whose professorial chair at the Collège de France Albert Kahn had endowed.
Kahn had also endowed, in 1898, a scholarship scheme of travel round the world - Bourses Autour du Monde - primarily designed for those who graduated from the École Normale Supérieure as schoolteachers. Vidal taught at the École Normale from 1877 to 1898. Educational appointments such as his and the appointments of professors at the Sorbonne or the Collège de France were political, as education itself was political because of its crucial role for social, and therefore ideological, reform. Normaliens were the elite of the teaching profession, the avant-garde for the transformation of instruction and French education. Kahn's reluctance to put himself forward, his tendency to retire into the background, to efface himself before his humanitarian-educational projects, and his reliance on educational institutions like the Sorbonne to direct these projects, was a modesty in keeping with a modernising French ideology post-1870, in which society, not the individual was crucial. "I work for humanity", Kahn proclaimed, "I serve the human race". (48)
I want to now turn directly to Brunhes'La géographie humaine, which, in the absence of written records in the Archives de la Planète, is the sole indication of what may have been the classification system of the Archives. I then want to indicate the role of phot ography and cinematography in the Archives structure, or, more precisely, its role as principal method and documentation, and finally to suggest certain connections between the Kahn Archives and the history of the cinema. (49)
Brunhes'human geography was divided into three main categories, in turn subdivided into two categories each for a total of six. There was A. Facts of Occupation divided into 1. Houses and 2. Roads. Then, B. Facts of Animal and Vegetable Conquest divided into 3. Agriculture and 4. Domestication of Animals. And finally, C. Destructive Economic Pursuits divided into 5. Mining and 6. Vegetable and Animal Destruction. This classification system is exhaustive, encyclopaedic and infinite. Each item of it can be further subdivided.
For example, under the sub-category houses, one might have houses in forest regions contrasted with houses in mountainous ones. Then, roofs of houses in forest regions contrasted with those in mountainous regions. Then roofs in forest regions sudivided into different shaped roofs and so on to include modes of roof repair. In fact, Brunhes prepared a complete map of France based on the pitch of roofs. Each new item adds to the collection thus placing it into perpetual flux. The encyclopaedia was not fixed. It was infinitely extendable in details. Nevertheless, its structure, which gave each item significance, was immutable. No matter how many items were found - and all items were translated into photographic images, reality and the image of reality considered to be virtual equivalents - each had a place in the encyclopaedia which the encyclopaedia assigned to it in advance. The Archives was at once collection and allegory, ever changing, but always the same, provided that its secret structural text, La géographie humaine, made meaning manifest. This is one reason perhaps that the autochromes of the Archives, however interesting, are seldom striking. No matter how particular an autochrome was, it was never more than an illustration of an already known. The image did not surprise and thereby confound existing categories, but comforted the viewer by confirming established categories. The photograph lacked power as an image because it was primarily illustrative of an idea.
Moreover, strictly speaking these images were not to be viewed or appreciated as in a volume of photographs, or as in an exhibit as they now are staged by the Musée Albert Kahn. That is, the autochromes were not to be viewed aesthetically, nor even strictly speaking on their own as vues of China or Japan, but rather as material for lectures by Brunhes at the Collège de France in much the same way as geographers today might employ photographic slides. The images needed to be accompanied. Indeed, they belong within a tradition of the illustrated geographical voyage-lecture and need to be understood as such. They are images grounded therefore and explicated at every turn by the scientific word. The audience for Brunhes'lectures were the educated pursuing a course of study even though the illustrated lecture of this kind was also part of popular entertainment which some have argued to be a forerunner of the early cinema with its exotic geographical views. (50)
Within this type of activity the autochrome had a particular appeal and a long life related to the earlier illustrated public lecture using the magic lantern. Livingstone employed the magic lantern to convert the heathen African, if not to Christianity, at least to technology. (51)
Despite the particularity of the autochromes in the Archives, they are typical in the sense of representing a typology like "habitation" or "cultivation". Every image is an image of a generality. Not a single image of the thousands of Archives autochromes I viewed startled me or arrested my attention as photographs. These are academic, illustrative images belonging to the lecture, the card catalogue and the encyclopaedia. Even those that might be thought of as beautiful, a sunset, for example, a novel perspective, a romantic ruin, were coded, as the Picturesque or the Folkloric, and thus had a tranquilising effect. Everything in place, all in order.
Brunhes disconnected the world into fragments, atomised it, then reconstituted it on the basis of perceived affinities: all houses, then all houses of certain types, then details of those types, etc. Meaning was self-evident, because it was based on visible analogies, and it was obscure, because these required an explicative support. It was at once a history infinitely changing (the collection), and a rigid structure without movement (the allegory). Brunhes' geography was simultaneously the motive for the Archives collection and the key to its decipherment. Typical of the photographic evidence of the Archives, almost certainly as a consequence of Brunhes'instructions to his opérateurs, are serial patterns which emerge from a single object or detail. The series might begin with an image of a rural temple in Japan. The exterior of the temple is photographed from every angle and perspective. It is then photographed in its interior, almost exhaustively, and all objects in that interior are photographed exhaustively: statues, idols, friezes, urns, altars. Sometimes, exterior and interior views will duplicate views at different hours of the day, for example, a temple at sunset, at dawn, in the glare of mid-day, aestheticising the subject and bringing it into the codings of the Picturesque but within the Encyclopaedia (the Beautiful in infinite shades).
The image range is exhaustive. The series might move outwards towards approaches to the temple, roads into the countryside, the countryside itself, modes of cultivation, habitation, to movables like farm implements, dress, modes of transport. What is depicted is an integrated cultural-natural environment at levels as small as the household or village to units approaching some kind of naturally defined locality or region. Such regions, say in Japan, then become part of a further series of analogous regions in the Auvergne, in Galway, near Angkor, on the road to Kabul. The message from each of these diverse places was the same as if the world could be globalised, not simply by economy, but by analogy, or more precisely, by ideology.
An image like "the temple" was caught in a system of global analogy: "all temples" or "all religious monuments". These relations were vertical, metaphoric and paradigmatic, as in language where like words can be substituted for similar words or in the substitution series of significant sounds. The image of the "temple" was caught as well in another system of regional contiguity: the temple with the adjoining roads, habitations etc. These relations were horizontal, metonymic and syntagmatic, as in a linguistic sentence. The first series was the structural series defined by like things which were immediately absent, the second series was narrational and linear defined by things immediately present.
Nevertheless, the narrational system itself became analogous within a system of regionalism since the contiguity of interrelations in a particular environment could be compared (and differentiated) from similar regional contiguities in other places. The similarity between the structure of this geography and the structural linguistics being developed virtually at the same moment in Switzerland by Ferdinand de Saussure is, I think, extraordinary and yet, perhaps, also to be expected, as is their similarity in turn to the structure of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. Saussure's linguistics revolutionised the study of language and literature. It was as much a sign of the modern as Marx's study of capital was, or Freud's study of the unconscious and Einstein's theory of relativity.
Brunhes'geography was global in the extension of the analogy and regional in the connections between environment and the social in particular places. Each of the autochromatic fragments of the world, regrouped and fashioned by Brunhes to produce a world classified, that is, a world invented, were part of small regional systems, in effect environmental micro-systems of man and his habitat. They demonstrated the universality of those systems, their historical and traditional lineage, and their link with the social fabric in which a balance was struck between economic development and societal structures. The form of Vidalian-Brunhian geography - the collection of fragments in ceaseless flux and the immutability of structure to contain them - formally reiterated the balance between order and change that was the substance of La géographie humaine.
This geography prevailed in France against a colonial geography which it successfully suppressed, even obliterated. Colonial geography was a geography of incessant change, insecurity, progress, an uprooting of traditional structures, a reformation of territories. Whatever one might think of it in terms of the human consequences and costs, as a formal system, French colonial geography not only proposed insecurity at its heart, but encouraged it, and hence was more open, more experimental, and possibly - which is what Vidal and Brunhes wanted to avoid - more destructive. (52)
French colonial geography was developed by Marcel Dubois who, with Vidal, initiated the geographical school of the Annales and of which he was co-editor. Vidal and Dubois were both human geographers and supporters of French colonialism, but Dubois stressed the transformative social powers inherent in the concept of genres de vie whereas Vidal's stress was altogether more conservative, traditionalist, regional and biological. Dubois not only saw colonialism as an opportunity for progress and change, but actively embraced the theoretical implications of a colonial geography centred on change rather than connections along a nature-culture continuum. The social and the political had a genuine force in Dubois'colonial geography and for that reason perhaps had little chance of survival in an academic environment informed by the social conservatism of Third Republic ideology.
I want to conclude with brief remarks on photography, in particular, on the autochrome, and on the history of the cinema, that is, its writing and the way it has been conceived. Of the scientific uses of photography in the nineteenth century, though these were not divorced from its aesthetic practices, I want to stress two aspects. The first, is the gap photography opened up in the visible between what the machine could perceive and what the eye could perceive, the former being presumed to have a superior vision. A primary impetus to innovation in photography was the rendering with the camera of more than the eye could see or encompass. Hence, photography was caught up by the division between the very visual certainties photography could provide as documentary evidence of reality and the visual uncertainties of human vision, unable to see reality either in its minute, or macroscopic, or panoramic details, or in its movement.
Photography was not simply a scientific tool, but also scientific method and as such embraced in its structures the problem science posed to itself in the nineteenth century which would become a generalised problem this century, namely a crisis in subjectivity, brought about by the pursuit of objective truth. For example, the photographic analysis of movement by the camera while it positively charts movement, negatively registers the human incapacity to perceive it (...) time and movement become both illusory and distorting.
The second aspect, connected to the first, was the fascination of the nineteenth century with movement, strikingly evident in the paintings of Romanticism, Delacroix, for example, or Géricault, and also in the development of photography in capturing and freezing movement, first in the instantanée, the snapshot - an area in which the Lumière company also played an extremely important part with the development of the étiquette bleu, a type of fast film - and then, by means of the instantanée, in the analysis of movement as in the experiments of Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadwaerd Muybridge on animal and human locomotion, including the flight of insects and the vision of the beating of our hearts. It was these experiments and this scientific impulse to see movement with the camera - movement that the eye could not see - that had led to the invention of the cinema.
The cinema comes at the very end of a century-long obsession with the analysis of movement and which the cinema, almost ironically, having provided the tools for its analysis, becomes the instrument for its recomposition, thus constituting the most effective illusion of reality rather than the most constructive understanding of it.
The autochrome, though a step forward in the scientific rendering of reality, by adding colour to the photographic image, was a backward step. The rendering of colour took place not on celluloid but on a glass plate and required lengthy exposure times and unwieldy equipment. The depiction of movement, albeit frozen rather than reconstituted, which was the great achievement of photography by the end of the century, could not be rendered by the autochrome except as a blur. The price of colour was an immobility. Everything had to be still, not even a leaf could move, still less a figure. In effect, the autochrome took the technology of photography back to its earliest beginnings, to the first part of the nineteeth century. Nevertheless, Brunhes insisted that all the images in the Archives, all 72,000 of them, be autochromes and this practice continued to as late as 1931. The Lumières'autochrome photographs have a sense of tranquil, bourgeois life to them, reminiscent of the late Impressionists.
That sense is also present in the autochromes of the Archives, but in the Archives, which survive into the teens and the1920s, the tranquility seems almost anachronistic. In the Lumière images, the bourgeois world is still intact. The Archive images are of a world left over, fragments and remnants that have survived, but are already essentially gone. The autochrome represents an act of preservation of what modernity has not yet altered: picturesque landscapes mummified, traditional costumes, rural life, ancient monuments, an Ireland untouched by trouble and poverty, a France not yet industrialised, a Japan of geishas and kimonos. Photography is evidential. Its truth is that it attests to what-has-been-and-is-no-longer. Every photograph contains in it a sense of decay, deterioration and death. The photograph, like the self-portrait, is an image of ruin. (53)
The ruin, the portrait and the self-portrait were among the great subjects of nineteenth century French painting. Time does not stand still in the images of the Archives, even if, or especially if, these images and Brunhes'geography centred more on the pre-industrial rather than the industrial, the rural not the urban, the traditional not the modern, Asia and the Orient not the West. This was not nostalgia, but evidence. It was evidence of a world about to disappear, to become ruin. And behind that evidence of the coming ruin was the evidence of the advancing progress which would cause the ruin to occur. The Lumière autochromes are charming. I found those of the Archives mournful. Perhaps it was for no other reason than, more than the Lumière images, they are explicitly about change and conscious of it and within the framework of the social sciences, in this case of geography (and to an extent ethnography), there to study a world almost already of the past.
The Archives recorded elements which were local and in balance. These elements, about to be no longer, were presented, I think, as belonging to a fundamental human essence and need, the condition of our very liberty, and with which modern geography, la géographie humaine, needed to come to terms so that progress might be orderly, durable and therefore liberating. It contained a social and ideological view of the modern. All societies, it said, adapted to their environment and helped create the environment. Adaptation was an environmental force. We must, it said, do the same for these societies, less fortunate than ours, less part of progress and the modern than ourselves, and some of which we are colonising. We must also do the same at home, ensuring progress by guaranteeing order. The post-modern, the epoch in which we live today, is the pathos of the modern and the destruction of the progressive hopes it contained.
Finally, a word about the history of the cinema. It seems to me that it is no longer possible to speak of the early years of the cinema, or any years of the cinema for that matter, without taking into account structures of ideology, politics, social philosophy, photography, painting, geography, which I have mentioned in this paper, and which pass through the invention of the cinématographe by the brothers Lumière as certainly as they pass through the Archives de la Planète. Histories of the cinema have tended to be self-contained and self-referential even when gathering to them insights of linguistics, semiotics, philosophy, sociology, economy. The Archives de la Planète suggested to me another possibility for giving significance to the cinematic fact, not least of which would be the facts of geography.
After all, as I mentioned, much of the Lumière's films were classified in their catalogue as "geographical". These categories were retained in the early catalogues of Pathé and Gaumont, and probably in those of Edison as well. Besides, the Lumière eye, though perhaps less conservative than the eye of Brunhes and his opérateurs, in part because the Lumière celebrated the rituals of the class in power, in part because their categories were more loosely defined and less structurally intentional, was equally scientific, even biological. It too gazed at the world with a scientific intensity, at times, microscopic. And the Lumière images possessed that pathos which underpins nineteenth century vision, the pathos inherent in change, the poignancy of disappearance, of the ruin, not least, the ruin of ourselves.
When Hitchcock, a Catholic, looked upon the world, every image he saw was corroded by guilt, by sinful intention. The most innocent gesture in a Hitchcock film is already a corrupt gesture. And, included in the image, is our own voyeuristic vision of forbidden pleasures, our own guilty intentions, watching experiences of others surreptitiously, from out of the darkness, sadistic and masochistic at once, stained, corrupt, vicariously complicit with evil. The nineteenth century had a more secular vision, perhaps also a more serious one. The culpability it saw was contained within the modernity it promoted. It was change itself that was the problem, so tempting and yet so awful. In the end, and by way of science, it turned that sentiment back on itself of which the cinema, perhaps, is the consequence, where the illusion of time can be recreated in eternal, infinite repetitions, as if we might live forever.
That was the sense audiences had at the first film shows by the Lumières, that life had been rendered back to them. It was magic. [Last night I watched Vincente Minnelli's Brigadoon (1954). I was reminded of Emma Bovary's dance (Jennifer Jones) in his Madame Bovary (1948), and Tootie Smith's (Margaret O'Brien) fright on Halloween night in Meet me in St Louis (1944), and the wish of the whole Smith family that they would not after all vacate to New York, and Mulligan's (Gene Kelly) dream on the balcony dressed as a Pierrot at the close of An American in Paris (1951). In each case, it seemed as if it was the characters who had called up the images. They had made the realities of the village of Brigadoon, of a romantic Prince, of ghosts and spirits, of a fantasy love, had manufactured them from their desires, frustrations, and fears, suggesting perhaps that it is we ourselves, the spectators, who create the illusions on the screen, projecting upon it shadows of mythical villages and mythical loves from within ourselves. Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) creates Brigadoon as he creates Fiona (Cyd Charisse) rescuing both from time and thereby finding in that fixity, in an immobilised history, the perfect love, a love you can only dream, which will always be the same and go on forever, each day encompassing one hundred years to an eternity of bliss. Just like the cinema, ninety minutes forever. The love has the perfection Tommy always wanted (and Mulligan, and all of us), but never thought possible (he is from New York!). Its possibility is only in dream or film which it what makes it so precious and fragile (...) and melancholy. Tommy is less sophisticated than Flaubert's Emma Bovary. She is ruined by a romantic dream induced by the provincial bourgeois respectability she wanted to escape. Emma's dream does not come true. Tommy's dream and Mulligan's and that of the Smith family do. It is not so much what is dreamt that constitutes the dream, but the coming true of it that is the dream. Tommy just never wakes up.
(1) This article is an edited version of a lectureI gave to the Royal Geographical Society (Hong Kong) on 9 December 1997. I haveadded footnotes and elaborated some parts of thelecture. I am grateful to Ilona Halberstadt,Roger Murray and William D. Routt for their help and suggestions. The footnotes are unusually extensive. They are not intended as a display of scholarship, however, but rather to indicate a wider than usual range for the study of the cinema.
(2) The Royal Geographical Society
was established by Royal Charter in 1830. See David N. Livingstone The
geographical tradition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 166-176 for a discussion
of the link between the RGS and the British Empire. European geographical
societies were closely connected to European imperalism. See the interesting
discussions in Michael J. Heffernan "The science of empire: the French
geographical movement and the forms of French imperialism, 1870-1920"
in Geography and empire, eds. Anne Godlewska and Neil Smith (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1994), 92-114 and also the excellent study of French geographical
societies by Dominique Lejeune, Les sociétés de géographie
en France et l'expansion coloniale au xIxième siècle (Paris:
Albin Michel, 1993).
(3) Sam Rohdie, The passion of Pier Paolo Pasolini (London: British Film Institute, 1995), 37-116. See Pier Paolo Pasolini, L'odore dell'India (Milan: Longanesi, 1962) and Il padre selvaggio (Turin: Einaudi, 1975) and the writings by Pasolini on the Third World collected in Pier Paolo Pasolini: corpi e luoghi, eds. Michele Mancini and Giuseppe Perrella (Rome: Theorema edizioni, 1981), 1-78 and the editors'introduction, xix-xxiii.
(4) The archive is administered by L'Espace Albert Kahn. It is a public archive but can only be consulted by appointment and with the permission of the Conservateur, Mme. Jeanne Beausoleil. The address of L'Espace Albert Kahn is 10 quai du 4 Septembre, Boulogne-Billancourt, 92110 France. The person in charge of the still images is Mme. Martine Espalieu-Ruby and of the moving image, Mme. Frédérique Dalmas-Le Bris. The telephone number is 01 46 04 52 80 and the fax number is 01 46 03 86 59.
(5) The model for the figures of
the astronomer and the geographer appear to be the same. There have been various
suggestions as to who this is among which the names of Vermeer (painter),
Leeuwenhoek (anatomist) and Spinoza (philosopher) have been mentioned. Who
precisely is the model is less important than the connectives between these
individuals and professions. There is some debate as well as to the exact
date of the paintings, but they were painted sometime between 1668 and 1673;
The astronomer is in the permanent collection of the Louvre while the geographer
belongs to the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. It is worthwhile indicating
some of the objects in the paintings: a celestial globe of 1600 of Hondius,
Metius manual on astronomy and geography from 1621, an astrolabe invented
by Metius, a compass, a terrestial globe of Hondius of 1618, a marine map
of Europe, a nautical map, a device for measuring the elevation of the sun
and the stars and an optical square.
(6) The explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific as told by selections of his own journals 1768-1779, ed. A. Grenfell Price (New York: Dover Publications, 1971). For the complete journals of Captain Cook see The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery, ed. J. C. Beaglehole, 3 vols. Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1955-1967). And Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, eds. J. Browne and Michael Neve (London: Penguin Books, 1989). The original complete version constituted the third volume of Captain Robert FitzRoy's account of the Beagle voyage, some weeks later reissued separately in August 1839 as Darwin's journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle (London: Henry Colburn, 1839).
(7) The literature is vast. I can only indicate some of these and not including Verne's 101 titles. The authors and titles suggest the close connection between travel, the exotic and a literary and painting avant-garde, a relation which, in France at least, carried on through the 1930s. François-René Chateaubriand, Itinéraire de Paris à Jerusalem, ed. Georges Faugeron (Paris: Juillard, 1964); Eugène Delacroix, Journal, ed. A. Joubin, 3 vols (Paris: Plon, 1931-1932); Alexandre Dumas and Adrien Dauzats, Impressions de voyage: quinze jours au Sinaï (Paris: Nouvelle Éditions, 1868); Gustave Flaubert, Voyages, ed. René Dumésnil (Paris: Société les Belles Lettres, 1948), which includes "Voyage en orient" (1849-1851) and "Voyage en Afrique" (1858); Eugène Fromentin, Un été dans le Sahara (Paris 1857) and his Carnets du voyage en Égypte (Paris 1935); Théophile Gautier, Voyage en Égypte (1870 etc) and Voyage en Algérie (1865 etc) (Paris: La Bo”te à Documents, 1996 and 1997); Guy de Maupassant, De Tunis à Kairouan (1883, 1888, 1889) (Paris: Éditions Complexe, 1993); Les lettres d'Égypte de Gustave Flaubert, ed. Youssef Naaman (Paris: Nizet, 1965); Gérard de Nerval, Voyage en orient (1851), ed. Michel Jeanneret, 2 vols. (Paris: GF-Flammarion, 1980).
(8) Paul Claudel, Connaissance
de l'est (1900) (Paris: Gallimard, 1974); André Gide, Voyage
au Congo (Paris: Gallimard, 1926); Michel Leiris, Miroir de l'Afrique,
ed. Jean Jamin (Paris: Gallimard, 1996); Pierre Loti, Voyages (1872-1913),
ed. Claude Martin (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1991); Victor Segalen, Oeuvres
complètes (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1995).
1. Painters accompanied and celebrated the Napoleonic conquest of Egypt and later in the century the French conquest of North Africa. French colonialism opened up a vast visual field and stimulus. More than 500 French painters in the nineteenth century painted canvases set in the Orient - "la secte de Levantins" - among whom were some of the great French Romantic painters: Chassériau, Delacroix, Fromentin, Géricault, Vernet and many of the finest French paintings of the nineteenth century. (9) Delacroix travelled to North Africa in 1831 a period which transformed his art. (10) Fromentin wrote a number of travel journal accounts of his voyages to North Africa, the most interesting perhaps being "Un été dans le Sahara" (1857). The art critic, Théophile Gautier, who wrote a number of North African travel journals, painted and wrote theatre pieces, admired both painters. He also admired their writings. He pointed out that it was painters and their "visual" writing - concrete, material, limpid and precise - that was revolutionising writing as their paintings were revolutionising the field and possibilities of vision. (11)
(9) See the excellent study by Christine Peltre, L'atelier du voyage: les peintres en orient au
xIxieme siècle (Paris: Gallimard, 1995),19.
(10) See the fascinating work by Michele Hannoosh (Painting and the Journal of Eugène Delacroix , Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995) which discusses the relation between the visual and the literary, the image and writing in Delacroix's journal.
(11) Gautier, "Un été dans le Sahara, par Eugène Fromentin" in Voyage en Algérie, 149-68.
(12) "L'aurore est rose, d'un
rose intense. Comment l'exprimer? Je dirais saumonée si cette note
était plus brillante. Vraiment nous manquons de mots pour faire passer
devant les yeux toutes les combinaisons des tons... Ce que j'ai vu, ce matin-là,
en quelques minutes, je ne saurais, avec des verbes, des noms et des adjectifs,
le faire voir" in De Tunis à Kairouan, 55. See also his essay
on the novel, "Le roman" (1887) in Pierre et Jean (Paris:
Bookking International, 1995), 11-27.
(13) Gautier, Voyage en Algérie, 73-104.
(14) See in this regard the marvellous collection of essays which came out of a conference at the European Humanities Research Centre at the University of Warwick on 24-27 September 1992 which discusses many of these issues: L'autre et le sacré: surréalisme, cinéma, ethnologie, ed. C. W. Thompson (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1995).
(15) Gautier "Exposition de 1859" in Voyage en Algérie, 191-94.
But does not this suggest that these obsessions are precisely those central to the invention of photography (Niépce and Daguerre are the contemporaries of Delacroix and Gautier) and to the later experiments of Marey keen to fix, scientifically and anatomically, exhaustively and infinitely, all that moved on the earth and in the heavens, and to compile an encyclopaedia of that movement? (16) Is not the camera the instrument for this universal complete encyclopaedia? And does not this further suggest, and not as context or cause, that the cinema, and certainly photography, gain their significance by being seen as a parallel practices with other social and artistic practices like painting, literature, and also colonialism and lithography, anatomy and thermodynamics, the Suez Canal and the steamship (Gautier was lyrical about the steamship), and that Marey is not simply a teleological precursor of the cinema, anymore than is Lumière, and that the historical linearity and seamlessness which has characterised film history is an impoverishment of it? And also might it be that the theorisation of the cinema with only passing attention to wider historical relations and little concern with relations of likeness and overlap between diverse fields, has been misleading, offering us false significances or at least significances too narrowly defined? (17)
(16) Étienne-Jules Marey, Le mouvement (1894) (Nimes: Éditions Jacqueline Chambon,1994); Michel Frizot, Avant le cinématographe: la chronophotographie (Beaune: Association des Amis de Marey etMinistère de la Culture, 1984); La passion du mouvement au xIxsiéme siècle: hommage à E.J. Marey (Beaune: Musée Marey, 1991).
(17) Gautier, "Exposition de 1859" in Voyage en Algérie, 191-4. See also Antoine de Baecque, "Les mots de l'histoire: entretien avec Jacques Rancière", Cahiers du cinéma 496 (November 1995), translated into English in Metro 111 (1997): 15-20.
(19) Documents, ed. Denis
Hollier, 2 vols. (Paris: André Michel, 1991). Leiris published a journal
of the Dakar-Djiboutiexpedition, L'Afrique fantôme, which, like
Documents, raised three specific and related issues.
(20) L'Afrique fantôme (1931) in Michel Leiris, Miroir de l'Afrique (Paris: Gallimard,
(21) The Surrealist journal Minotaure 2 (1933) was entirely devoted to the 'Mission Dakar-Djibouti'. It is significant, I think, that an avant-garde Surrealist journal recorded this ethnographic-museumological expedition and not a scientific anthropological journal.
(22) Godard briefly studied ethnography at theSorbonne. See L'autre et le sacré: surréalisme,cinéma, ethnologie, ed. C. W. Thompson,and in particular Mike Witt's essay "Godard, le cinéma et l'ethnologie: ou l'objet et sa représentation" (369-78) and two essays by René Predal "Jean Rouch: une inspiration surréaliste à l'épreuve du 'direct'" (333-48) and "Jacques Rivette ou le temps imaginaire de l'amour fou" (379-94). See also, in Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, ed. Alain Bergala (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma-Éditions de l'Étoile, 1985), the following articles by Godard, three of which directly concern the cinema of Jean Rouch: "Jean Rouch remporte le prix Delluc" (155), reprinted from Arts 707 (17 December 1958); "Étonnant" (177-8), reprinted from Arts 715 (25 March 1959); "L'Afrique vous parle de la fin et des moyens" (180-2), reprinted from Cahiers du cinéma 94 (April 1959); and "Un cinéaste c'est aussi un missionaire:. Jean-Luc Godard fait parler Roberto Rossellini" (187-190), reprinted from Arts 716 (1 April 1959). All of these Godard pieces except "Étonnant" appear in English in Godard on Godard, ed. Tom Milne (London: Secker and Warburg, 1972).
(23) Jean Bruhnes, La géographie humaine, 3éme édition (Paris: Felix Alcan, 1925), 60.My translation. The passage interestinglyre calls passages of a similar kind in Jules Verne's Cinq semaines en ballon (1863) (Paris: Bookking International, 1995).
(24)Charles Baudelaire, "Lettre à M. le Directeur de la Revue Française sur le 'Salon de 1859'", Revue Française, 20 June 1859.
(25) See the fascinating study by Guido Convents, Préhistoire du cinéma en Afrique1897-1918. À la recherche des images oubliées (Brussels: OCIC, 1986), 69, 80-2, 114-15.
(26) Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Luc
Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, ed. Alain Bergala, 144. In 1968, Jacques Rivette
commented that the French nouvelle vague and Godard in particular were indebted
to the films of the ethnographer-cinéaste Jean Rouch: "Rouch has
been the motor of the French cinema over the last ten years...Jean-Luc comes
(27) "Le temps déborde: entretien avec Jacques Rivette par Jacques Aumont, Jean-Louis Comolli, Jean Narboni et Sylvie Pierre", Cahiers du cinéma 204 (September 1968), 20. My translation.
(28) Requoted in Paul Stoller, "Artaud, Rouch et le cinéma de la cruauté" in L'autre et le sacré, ed. C. W. Thompson, 332. I have retranslated it from the French. It originally appeared in English in "Jean Rouch talks about his films to John Marshall and John W. Adams", American anthropologist 80 (4): 1005-20.
(29) "Entretien de Jean Rouch avec le Professeur Enrico Fulchignoni" in Jean Rouch: une rétrospective, (Paris: Ministère des Relations Extérieures, 1981), 28.
(30) Joseph Conrad, Heart of
darkness, ed. R.Hampson (London: Penguin, 1995). The story was originally
serialised in Blackwood's magazine in 1899 and published in book form in Youth:
a narrative; and two other stories in 1902. The Penguin edition also includes
Conrad's The Congo diary of his trip to the Congo in 1890. See also
Joseph Conrad The mirror of the sea and A personal record, ed.
Zdzislaw Najder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) and his "Geography
and some explorers" in Last essays (London: J. M. Dent, 1926).
See André Gide Voyage au Congo and Marc Allégret, Carnets
du Congo: voyage avec André Gide (Paris: CNRS, 1993). And see Michel
Leiris, Miroir de l'Afrique, 80-93.
(31) Michel Butor, Courrier des Antipodes in Boomerang: le genie du lieu 3 (Paris: Gallimard, 1978) and in English as Letters from the Antipodes (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1981).
(32) For a full discussion of the involvement of the Lumières in the invention of the autochrome and the subsequent history of the process see the informative thesis of Nathalie Boulouch, "La photographie autochrome en France (1904-1931)" (The Sorbonne, 1994) and also her "Les visions d'orient de Jules Gervais-Courtellemont" in Exotica: l'attraction des lointains, eds. Philippe-Alain Michaud and Thierry Levebre, special number of 1895 (May 1996) issued in conjunction with a series of films screened at the Louvre under the that title during May-June 1996.
(33) See S. Berstein and P. Milza, Histoire de la France au xx iéme siècle 1900-1930 (Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 1990), 188-9.
(34) Jeanne Beausoleil, ed., Pour une reconnaissance africaine: Dahomey 1930 (Boulogne: Le Musée Albert Kahn, 1996), 244.
(35) See Dominique Lejeune, La France des débuts de la III iéme République 1870-1896 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1994), 71-82.
(36) See Madeleine Rebérioux, La République radicale? 1898-1914 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975), 120-33.
(37) See Robert Hughes, The fatal shore (London: Pan Books, 1988).
(38) See in particular Vincent
Berdoulay, La formation de l'école française de géographie
(1870-1914) (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1981); André Meynier,
Histoire de la pensée géographique en France (1872-1969)
(Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969); Lejeune, La France des
débuts de la III ième République; the excellent collection
of essays, Géographies des colonisations xVième xx ième
siècles, eds. Michel Bruneau and Daniel Dory. (Paris: Éditions
l'Harmattan, 1994), especially Claude Liauzu, "Elisée reclus et
l'expansion européenne en méditeranée", 129-35,
and one of the most illuminating essays on French geography and modernism
that I know, which concentrates on colonial geography and the work of Marcel
Dubois, Olivier Soubeyran's "La géographie coloniale au risque
de la modernité", 193-213; also Paul Rabinow, French modern:
norms and forms of the social environment (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1989)
and Livingstone, The geographical tradition.
(39) Requoted from Lucien Febvre, La terre et l'évolution humaine: introduction géographique à l'histoire (Paris: Albin Michel, 1949), 11-12. See also Berdoulay, La formation de l'école française, 217. Febvre was an historian writing about geography and in particular the human geography of Vidal de la Blache and Jean Brunhes. His book, written in 1922, is crucial reading for the debates concerning French geography in the 1920s. See also Jean Brunhes and Camille Vallaux, La géographie de l'histoire: géographie de la pix et de la guerre sur terre et sur mer (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1921).
(40) Lejeune, La France des débuts de la IIIième République, 17-18. One of the great French geographers of the late nineteenth century was Elisée Reclus, a Communard and an anarchist, close to the Russian émigré anarchist Petr Kropotkin who wrote "What geography ought to be" from a prison cell in 1885: "In our time of wars, of national self-conceit, of national jealousies and hatreds ably nourished by people who pursue their own egoistic, personal or class interests, geography must be...a means of dissipating those prejudices and of creating other feelings more worthy of humanity."(41) Réclus'Nouvelle géographie universelle (1876-1894), heavily influenced by German geography, was egalitarian in intent - to study the world's resources in order to equitably divide them, and regionalist on a global scale. Despite the apparent ideological gap between Réclus and the French Republic, with regard to geography, there was an overlap. (42)
(41) Livingstone, The geographical tradition, 254-7.
(42) See Gary S. Dunbar, Elisée Reclus. Historian of nature (Hamden: Archon Books,1978) and his "Elisée Reclus, an anarchist in geography" in Geography, ideology and social concern, ed. David R Stoddart (Oxford:Blackwell, 1981), 154-64. See also H.Sarrazin, Elisée Reclus ou la passion du monde (Paris: La Découverte, 1985).
(43) Paul Marie-Joseph Vidal de la Blache, Principes de géographie humaine (Paris:Armand Colin, 1922), 3-14, 103-5, 115-17.See also Berdoulay, La formation de l'école française, 183-228, and Livingstone, The geographical tradition, 265ff.
(44) Some of Vidal de la Blache's principal writings related to this essay include: "L'ÉcoleNormale", Revue internationale del'enseignement 8 (1884); Autour de la France. Pays et nations d'Europe (Paris: De laGrave, 1889); "Le principe de la géographiegenerale", Annales de géographie 5 (1896):129-41; "Leçon de l'ouverture du cours de géographie", Annales de géographie 38 (1899): 97-109; "La géographie humaine, sesrapports avec la géographie de la vie", Revuede synthese historique 7 (1903): 219-40;Tableau de la géographie de la France (1903);"Les pays de France", La réforme sociale 48 (1-16 September 1904); "Rapports de lasociologie, avec la géographie", Revueinternationale di sociologie 12 (1904):309-13; "Les bourses de voyage autour dumonde" in section 1 of Congres internationald'exposition économique mondiale(March 1905); "Regions françaises", Revue deParis 5, no. 17 (15 December 1910); "Lesgenres de vie dans la géographie humaine",Annales de la géographie 20 (1911): 193-212,289-304; "Des caractères distinctifs de lagéographie", Annales de géographie 22 (1913): 290-299; as well as the aforementioned Principes de géographie humaine.
(45)See Brunhes, La géographie humaine, and Bruhnes et Vallaux, La égographie del'histoire as well as the catalogue of an exhibition on Brunhes published by the Kahn Museum which has some excellent studies written for the most part by the staff of the Museum: Autour du monde: Jean Brunhes, regards d'un géographe, regards de la géographie (Boulogne: Musée Albert Kahn,1993).
(46) Brunhes, La géographie humaine. 41-2;Livingstone, The geographical tradition,196-200, 264; Febvre, La terre et l'évolutionhumaine, 19-39; Berdoulay, La formation del'école française, 26-40. (47) Vidal de la Blache, Principes degéographie humaine, 5ième édition (1955),5-18, 103-202.
(47) What is important about this geography is that it introduced history and social structures into physical geography and thereby humanised it bringing geography within the social sciences. Society became not simply a consequence of geographical factors but a geographical factor itself and thus, particularly important for Vidal and Brunhes, socialising the landscape and offering a vision of human freedom judged on the basis of social capacities in transforming natural givens. The more society was able to intervene upon nature, and thus the less it was tied to it and determined by it, the more free that society would be. Clearly then, European societies were more free than say Asiatic or African societies. Vidal was a strong supporter of French colonialism insofar as it offered to those more bound to nature (the Africans) the possibility of being more in control of it and hence more liberated.
(48) Requoted from Jeanne Beausoleil,
"Portraiten creux" in Albert Kahn: réalités d'une
utopie1860-1940 (Marseille: Le Musée AlbertKahn, 1995), 26. The
entire volume is of immense interest. It was produced by the KahnMuseum for
an exhibit directly about Kahn.
(49) Brunhes, La géographie humaine, 56-98. See especially the third volume of this threevolume work which is exclusively a volume of photographs organised according to Brunhes'classification system.
(50) See Boulouch, "La photographieautochrome en France (1904-1931)" and "Lesvisions d'orient de JulesGervais-Courtellemont". Also Tom Gunning" 'The whole world within reach': travel imageswithout borders" in Cinéma sans frontières1896-1918/ Images across borders, eds.Roland Cosandey and François Albera(Lausanne/Quebec: Éditions Payot, 1995), 21-36.
(51) Anne Hugon, The exploration of Africa: from Cairo to the Cape (London: Thames andHudson, 1993), 71.
(52) See Soubeyran, "La géographie colonialeau risque de la modernité" in Géographies descolonisations xViéme xxiéme siècles eds.Michel Bruneau and Daniel Dory.
(53) See in this regard one of the most beautifulbooks I know: Jacques Derrida's Mémoires d'aveugle: l'autoportrait et autres ruines (Paris:Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux,1990).