Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Russia In Colour 1909 – 1912 by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

These extraordinary pictures from almost the start of a form of colour photography are beautiful and exceptional. From The Boston Globe, 34 pictures of life in the Russia before the revolution by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944).

There is a description of the technique he used on this site

This is what the Boston Globe says

“With images from southern and central Russia in the news lately due to extensive wildfires, I thought it would be interesting to look back in time with this extraordinary collection of color photographs taken between 1909 and 1912. In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time – when these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun. Collected here are a few of the hundreds of color images made available by the Library of Congress, which purchased the original glass plates back in 1948”…..MORE HERE

An Armenian woman in national costume poses for Prokudin-Gorskii on a hillside near Artvin (in present day Turkey), circa 1910

Sart woman in purdah in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, ca. 1910. Until the Russian revolution of 1917, “Sart” was the name for Uzbeks living in Kazakhstan.

A boy sits in the court of Tillia-Kari mosque in Samarkand, present-day Uzbekistan, ca. 1910.

Self-portrait on the Karolitskhali River, ca. 1910. Prokudin-Gorskii in suit and hat, seated on rock beside the Karolitskhali River, in the Caucasus Mountains near the seaport of Batumi on the eastern coast of the Black Sea

A group of women in Dagestan, ca. 1910.

Molding of an artistic casting (Kasli Iron Works), 1910. From the album “Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire”.

See all of the 34 images here at The Boston Globe

Here is further information about Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii:

Born in St. Petersburg and educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii devoted his career to the advancement of photography. In the early 1900s, he developed an ingenious technique of taking colour photographs. The same object was captured in black and white on glass plate negatives, using red, green and blue filters. He then presented these images in colour in slide lectures using a light-projection system.

Supported by Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915, Prokudin-Gorskii completed surveys of eleven regions of Russia, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia’s diverse population.

In 1918, after the revolution, Prokudin-Gorskii went into exile, taking with him only his collection of nearly 2,000 glass-plate negatives and his photograph albums. The collection was purchased by the Library of Congress (LOC) in 1948 from his heirs.

This is from the Alex Gridenko studio, further information here

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