Colour images taken 100 years ago show Russia like you wouldn’t imagine it

Amateur Photographer

100 years ago, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) used a specialised camera to capture some truly remarkable colour images of the Russian Empire during the beginning of the 20th century. Source

An Armenian woman in national costume poses for Prokudin-Gorskii on a hillside near Artvin (in present day Turkey), circa 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer

Prokudin-Gorskii’s extraordinary colour images were captured between 1909-1915, while he was conducting a photographic study of the Russian Empire, backed by Russia’s final Emperor, Tsar Nicholas II.

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To produced these famous images it’s believed that Prokudin-Gorskii used a camera similar to the Miethe-Bermpohl camera, developed by his mentor Adolf Miethe. The Miethe-Bermpohl allowed the photographer to make multiple exposures in relatively quick succession using glass slide plates coated in colour-sensitive emulsion. The plates, measured 9 x 24cm and were mounted vertically into a repeating back, each one recording three exposures of the same scene. 100 years ago, it was rare for colour images to be printed so to display his images Prokudin-Gorskii would project his colour separated images using a custom-made triple-lens magic lantern.

The whole process was technically difficult, which makes Prokudin-Gorskii’s images all the more startling, when you consider they were produced over 100 years ago. A collection of over 1900 negatives produced by Prokudin-Gorskii belong to the US Library of Congress, who purchased them in 1948 and have made the images and details relating to them publicly available to view via this website.

Molding of an artistic casting (Kasli Iron Works), 1910. From the album Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A woman is seated in a calm spot on the Sim River, part of the Volga watershed in 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A chapel sits on the site where the city of Belozersk was founded in ancient times, photographed in 1909. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
View of Tiflis (Tblisi), Georgia from the grounds of Saint David Church, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm (Khiva, now a part of modern Uzbekistan), full-length portrait, seated outdoors, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
On the Sim River, a shepherd boy. Photo taken in 1910, from the album Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Alternators made in Budapest, Hungary, in the power generating hall of a hydroelectric station in Iolotan (Eloten), Turkmenistan, on the Murghab River, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A Georgian woman poses for a photograph, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A group of women in Dagestan, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
General view of Artvin (now in Turkey) from the small town of Svet, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Pinkhus Karlinskii, eighty-four years old with sixty-six years of service. Supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, part of the Mariinskii Canal system. Photo taken in 1909. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
General view of the Nikolaevskii Cathedral from southwest in Mozhaisk in 1911. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A group of Jewish children with a teacher in Samarkand, (in modern Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A switch operator poses on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, near the town of Ust Katav on the Yuryuzan River in 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
General view of the wharf at Mezhevaya Utka, 1912. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Prokudin-Gorskii rides along on a handcar outside Petrozavodsk on the Murmansk railway along Lake Onega near Petrozavodsk in 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A water-carrier in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A dog rests on the shore of Lake Lindozero in 1910. From the album Views along the Murmansk Railway, Russian Empire. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Russian children sit on the side of a hill near a church and bell tower near White Lake, in Russia, 1909. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, seated holding a sword in Bukhara, (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A metal truss bridge on stone piers, part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, crossing the Kama River near Perm, Ural Mountains Region, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
Nomadic Kirghiz on the Golodnaia Steppe in present-day Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A man and woman pose in Dagestan, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A general view of Sukhumi, Abkhazia and its bay, seen sometime around 1910 from Cherniavskii Mountain. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer
A boy sits in the court of Tillia-Kari mosque in Samarkand, present-day Uzbekistan, ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection:LOC) Amateur Photographer

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