Stéphane François Marie Passet (1875-1941) was an amateur photographer and appointed operator on behalf of the Archives de la Planète (Archives of the Planet). This archival project began thanks to the rich French-based banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn (1860-1940), who became concerned about the Chinese cultural heritage after his part-business, part-pleasure trip to China between November 1908 and May 1909.
After his return to Paris, Kahn decided to launch the worldwide project Les Archives de la Planète. This three-decade long project distinguished itself from any other initiated at that time thanks to the compilation of a visual inventory of the world utilizing ground-breaking types of media from that time, namely autochrome and film. With the utopian aim to ‘fix once and for all the aspects, the practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearing is just a question of time’, Kahn hired a dozen operators to help him visualize the world, including Passet.
Biographical elements of Passet remain quite meagre. What is known is that he volunteered in the French Army for fifteen years, settled down in Paris in 1910, and worked for Kahn’s Archives de la Planète from 1912 onwards. The circumstances of his previous training as a photographer and cameraman, as well as his recruitment, remain unknown. The visual archive left to us today reveal that two trips were organised in 1912 (between May and August) and 1913 (between the end of May and the end of June). Passet and his team travelled across China, visiting and recording places such as Beijing (which composes a large part of the archive in China) and northern sites (Great Wall and Ming Tombs), Shenyang, Zhangjiakou, Qufu, Shanghai, places along the Yangtze River, and Mount Tai (hereinafter referred to as Taishan)
Taishan is one of the best-known mountains in China. Located in Shandong province to the north of Tai’an city, Taishan is conceived as the Eastern Marchmount of the Five Sacred Peaks (wuyue, 五嶽). The images above introduce chiefly this famous mountain. The Archives de la Planète ended in 1931 when Kahn was bankrupted.
More information: Musée Albert-Kahn's online collection