When chemistry met photography
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was a scientist with a passion for photography, who produced hundreds of colorful images of his country. And he probably would’ve remained just another unknown photographer if it wasn’t for one picture: on one of his trips he got to photograph one of the most renowned Russian authors, Leo Tolstoy.
His name, as an artist, spread fast. His revealing photos even startled the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, who invited him to his palace to see his work. After contemplating the shots of the empire’s breathtaking landscapes and the portrait of Leo Tolstoy himself, he couldn’t help but give Prokudin-Gorsky an assignment to start a journey to document the Russian Empire in color.
The expedition would last for 6 years, from 1909 to 1915, which the photographer took as the project of his life. Thanks to his technique of 3-image color photography, he was able to keep a record of the country before the revolution.
But, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s begin our tour to the mysterious past and enjoy the picturesque landscapes and intriguing characters.
Woman in Little Russia, now Ukraine
The capture of peasants
Crew of the steamship “Sheksna” of the Ministry of Communication and Transportation
Emir of Bukhara, now Uzbekistan
Group of children
Woodcutters on the Svir River
Dagestani couple in the North Caucasus
3 generations: A.P. Kalganov with his son and granddaughter
Bashkir woman in a folk costume
At harvest time
Prokudin-Gorsky (right) in Murman with 2 men
A switchman on the road
A Bashkir dog
Peasant woman breaking flax
Georgian women dressed in holiday attire, in the park of Borzhom
A teacher with his female students near the Artomelin mosque in Artvin
A group of Greek women workers harvesting tea, in modern day Georgia
Dagestani man, Southern Russia
Armenian women in their traditional clothing
A settler’s family in Grafovka
Prison with inmates looking out through the bars and a guard with a Russian rifle, uniform, and boots, Central Asia
Spinning yarn in the village of Izvedovo
Man with a camel loaded with packs
Georgian woman in a folk costume
Study of a girl
Sart woman in Samarkand, now Uzbekistan