Old Russia in Color – The Photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

While numerous other blogs and media have already taken the opportunity to bring this man’s work to light, I feel that I should do the same here for those who have yet to see this tremendous achievement in photography.

For those who don’t know yet, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky was a photographer who’s experience in chemistry created one of the earliest techniques of color photography, which he used to document the scope of the Russian empire prior to the revolution, giving us a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the time.

Through the years of 1904 to 1916, Prokudin-Gorsky was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to document pre-revolutionary Russia and was granted access to the whole of the Russian empire. It is said that Prokudin-Gorsky had created some 3,500 negatives in his journeys across the Russian empire, although only about 1,902 have been recovered.

The technique in itself would take three different images, each through a certain filter. When put through a certain light, the photos would recreate the original scene in full color. It would only be until nearly a century later when Prokudin-Gorsky’s original negatives, purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948, would be fully put together, the photographer unfortunately, did not live to see his life’s work realized.

Thanks to the efforts of the Library of Congress, we are able to experience the wonder of the Russian empire in a way traditional black-and-white photography of the time would not be able to convey. I’ve selected several of what I believe to be the best examples of this man’s work, but I encourage the readership of this blog to view the full collection at the Library of Congress’ site.


Here are the links where one may find more of Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographs:



5 responses to “Old Russia in Color – The Photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

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