The colours of Russia

August 10, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

I’m about to embark on a 12 week course of photography lessons with a photographer in the US.  He has 45 years’ experience, so I hope to learn heaps! As part of my research, I came across the amazing photography of  Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky (being of Russian ancestry, I’m hoping he’s a long lost relative so I can claim that photographic talent runs in the veins 🙂

Check out this photo – approximately what decade do you think it was taken? 1980s? 1960s?

Noooo!! It was taken in 1915.  Yeegads!  Apparently, there are some give-aways in this photo and someone who knows Russian history might be able to locate the photo as being taken in the early 1900s. Early 1900s – can you imagine – I mean look at the bold blue sky and the general overall colour of this shot! This is century-old photography. Prokudin-Gorsky started taking colour shots in 1909. He wanted to capture the beauty, richness, colour and boldness of Tsarist Russia.

When I think of colour photography, for some reason my mind goes to the 1940s, when colour photos and films became more popular. I think the first colour photo was taken in the 1860s though.

Apparently, Prokudin-Gorsky developed a processing technique that gave him the rich, vibrant colours we see in his photos. The process he developed sounds intricate: he would take a series of three monochrome pictures in sequence but each photo was taken using a different coloured filter. Like this:

He took over 10,000 photos but sadly many are no longer extant. Let’s enjoy some of these amazing early colour shots.

Sources: Wikipedia; Quazen; Flickr (Prokudin-Gorsky’s photostream)


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