Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii captured a side of Russia no one had ever seen, bringing to life it’s people and the simplicity of how they once lived before the October Revolution, Soviet Union and World War I ever happened. Not only were these photographs taken over a century ago, but they were captured in color, when color photography was in its experimental stages and was very much unusual and even unknown to some. How did Prokudin-Gorskii achieve this?
The chemist and late photographer was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to capture the essence of Russia between 1909-1912. Prokudin-Gorskii would then take three photographs of his subjects, one in red, green, and blue filters, the monochrome photographs would later be projected onto a screen of each color filter, and lastly placed on top of each other achieving utterly realistic and vibrant images.
There’s such a mixture of rich and subtle tones alike, it makes you feel like they could’ve been taken today with people wearing period costumes.
Although it was much easier to capture landscapes with this method as it didn’t include any moving subjects, Prokudin-Gorskii often photographed people– the only color photograph known to be taken of the great Leo Tolstoy, was captured by Prokudin-Gorskii in 1908. The mismatch of color in certain photographs can reveal when the subject moved between photos.
Prokudin-Gorskii was never able to finish his 10-year photography project as he was forced out when tensions in Russia quickly escalated. At that point in time, the photographer had already compiled over 3,500 negatives, but sadly the majority of those were taken away when he left the country. The U.S. Library of Congress purchased the 1,902 that were saved, and are now housed there for safe keeping.
To view the entire collection, you can visit the Library of Congress website.
[via Daily Mail]