The empire that was…



The Emir of Bukhara” (1911), by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Prokudin-Gorskii, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II, spent several years in the early part of the twentieth century shooting the countryside and peoples of Russia. An inventor and scientist, he developed a special camera that could take (in rapid succession, and on a single plate) images of the same scene shot through red, green and blue filters. Intended for projection, the images would combine to form a color image when projected through the same set of colored filters (much like the three-strip technicolor process in motion pictures). The result was a series of images of immense beauty and historical importance, a record of a world vanished into the mists of revolution and change.

About 70 of his photos, combined digitally from scans of original glass plate negatives, are on display as part of “The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated,” a web exhibit hosted by the Library of Congress.

  • loliinspired

    Fabulous find, yuki!

  • Totally amazing pictures, no doubt. But they do smack a little of the "coloured in" look of technicolor films. In the above picture if you look from his boots to his robe it looks like you are moving from a grainy black and white to a suddenly crip colour photo.

    It's very weird looking at these pics and thinking of when they were taken...

  • yukino

    You can read about the process on this page. Sounds like they had to do a combination of scanning the original glass plates and some correction to compensate for registration and color -- but that color information all comes from the original data, not fabricated.

  • Mary

    These are amazing.

    But I'm a little confused (see quote from website below). Did the library of congress help color the images? Or are they only refering to how they captured the images from the glass plates?

    " For this exhibition, the glass plates have been scanned and, through an innovative process known as digichromatography, brilliant color images have been produced. This exhibition features a sampling of Prokudin-Gorskii's historic images produced through the new process; the digital technology that makes these superior color prints possible"

  • It's just astonishing to see such sharp color images from that era. Absolutely beautiful.

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