The following is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division.
August 30, 2013 marks the 150th birthday for the master of early color photography in Russia–Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944).
The Prokudin-Gorskii Collection at the Library of Congress features color photographic surveys of the vast Russian Empire made primarily between 1909 and 1915. Frequent subjects among the 2,600 distinct images include people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry and agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, and views of villages and cities.
Using emerging technological advances in color photography, Prokudin-Gorskii made numerous photographic trips traveling many thousands of miles to systematically document the Russian Empire, which controlled one-sixth of the earth’s land mass at that time. It was the largest empire in history and spanned what today are eleven different times zones.
The Prints & Photographs Division is honored to preserve this remarkable collection, which we acquired in 1948. Reviving the color content in 2000 to 2004, through the ingenious efforts of Lynn Brooks, Walter Frankhauser, and Blaise Agüera y Arcas, has also made Prokudin-Gorskii’s extraordinary images available online for all the world to see. Much new information about the sites shown in the photographs and fascinating pairings of then-and-now views are being gathered as a result. It’s really Prokudin-Gorskii who gives us a birthday gift– the special pleasure of seeing a vanished world captured in color by a master photographer.
- Explore the whole collection at the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- Enjoy then & now views, new photo identifications, and helpful maps at the website Legacy of S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky, 2008-. (Vasiliy V. Dryuchin and Vyacheslav N. Ratnikov, project leaders.
- Study the color production methods.
- Read about the collection and photographer in:
- Adamson, Jeremy, and Helena Zinkham. “The Prokudin-Gorskii Legacy: Color Photographs of the Russian Empire, 1905-1915.” Comma 3-4 (2002): 107-144. Available as a pdf file, www.wien2004.ica.org/en/node/30480.
- Nostalgia: The Russian Empire of Czar Nicholas II Captured in Colored Photographs by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Berlin: Gestalten, 2012.
- Update 9/3/13: We have also posted a selection of the Prokudin-Gorskii photographs in the Library of Congress Flickr account–have a look at the comments and questions/answers posted there.