The Russian Empire, 100 years ago, in colour
Group of workers harvesting tea, between 1905 and 1915 / © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-21522
Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii's colour photographs of the Russian Empire are vividly brought to life in a new book that features 250 examples of his work from 1905-1915...
Prokudin-Gorskii wanted to capture the entirety of his native Russia as a way of providing its citizens with a stronger connection to their country and an idea of common identity. The photographer was even given a railroad car darkroom by Czar Nicholas II so that he could produce his pictures on the move.
Emir of Bukhara, 1911 / © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-21887
As both a photographer and chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii developed a technique first established by Scottish mathematical physicist, James Clark Maxwell, in the mid-19th century whereby the visible spectrum was captured in the form of three black-and-white photographs taken through red, green and violet-blue filters.
Prokudin-Gorskii's process used colour-sensitive glass plates and a camera which, say Gestalten, the publishers of Nostalgia, "exposed one oblong glass plate three times in rapid succession through the three filters".
"For formal presentations," they continue, "the negative plate was placed in a triple lens lantern so the three exposures could be superimposed to form a full colour image on a screen. Due to the brief time lapse between the fixation of the three frames on the plate, the perspective is slightly distorted to varying degrees on the final image and results in random shimmers of colour."
Settler's family in the Settlement of Grafovka in Mugan Steppe, between 1905 and 1915 © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-21602
Prokudin-Gorskii fled Russia in 1918, eventually settling in Paris where he died in 1944. The United States Library of Congress purchased his work in 1948, but has only recently completely restoration work on the images (the LOC's collection of Prokudin-Gorskii's work is here).
Prior to the culmination of that project, the book, Photographs for the Tsar, was publishied in 1980 and replicated his images using yellow, magenta and cyan prints of the negatives.
On the Karolitskhali River, between 1905 and 1915 / © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-21468. This is apparently a self-portrait of Prokudin-Gorskii
While Prokudin-Gorskii's work was carried out decades before the widespread availability of colour film, 21st-century digital image processing techniques have now enabled the images to be seen afresh.
Indeed, much of Prokudin-Gorskii's work has been circulating on the internet for years, with amateur restorers also bringing his images about using modern projection techniques (the Library of Congress also has high resolution versions of the negatives on its website).
Nostalgia, however, attempts to show 250 of these fascinating pictures in their best light yet – presumably as Prokudin-Gorskii would have intended.
A selection of images from the book will also appear on the CR iPad app (details on the October edition here). Nostaligia is published by Gestalten; £55. Nostalgia will also be exhibited in Europe for the first time at Gestalten Space in Berlin. The exhibition is part of the official selection of Berlin displays in the 5th European Month of Photography Festival from October 19 to November 25. More images of Prokudin-Gorskii's work can be seen on this Wikimedia Commons page.
Molding shop at the Kasli plant, 1910 / © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-20506
Church of the resurrection in the grove (Kostroma), 1910 / © LOC, LC-DIG-prokc-21251
CR for the iPad
Read in-depth features and analysis plus exclusive iPad-only content in the Creative Review iPad App. Longer, more in-depth features than we run on the blog, portfolios of great, full-screen images and hi-res video. If the blog is about news, comment and debate, the iPad is about inspiration, viewing and reading. As well as providing exclusive, iPad-only content, the app will also update with new content throughout each month. Try a free sample issue here
CR in Print
In our October print issue we have a major feature on the rise of Riso printing, celebrate the art of signwriting, examine the credentials of 'Goodvertising' and look back at the birth of D&AD. Rebecca Lynch reviews the Book of Books, a survey of 500 years of book design, Jeremy Leslie explains how the daily London 2012 magazine delivered all the news and stories of the Games and Michael Evamy explores website emblemetric.com, offering "data-driven insights into logo design". In addition to the issue this month, subscribers will receive a special 36-page supplement sponsored by Tag celebrating D&AD's 50th with details of all those honoured with Lifetime Achievement awards plus pieces on this year's Black Pencil and President's Award-winners Derek Birdsall and Dan Wieden. And subscribers also receive Monograph which this month features Rian Hughes' photographs of the unique lettering and illustration styles of British fairgrounds
Please note, CR now has a limited presence on the newsstand at WH Smith high street stores (although it can still be found in WH Smith travel branches at train stations and airports). If you cannot find a copy of CR in your town, your WH Smith store or a local independent newsagent can order it for you. You can search for your nearest stockist here. Alternatively, call us on 020 7970 4878 to buy a copy direct from us. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 970 4878 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine.
Awesome pictures, would have loved to have seen some more though. You often think of Russia as drab and grey but the images are full of vibrant colours, fantastic!
Saw these a while ago, totally blew me away.
More here http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/08/russia_in_color_a_century_ago.html
Great set of images- see where the iPhone photo filter apps get their inspiration.
The Emir is particularly impressive.
Incredible to see how the world has changed, in a relatively short time scale.
Will the world look back at TOWIE tweets with the same nostalgia I wonder.
|Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 (1)|
|Robert Wilson's Helmand photographs brought to UK streets (6)|
|New Dulux ad imagines a world without colour (16)|
|The Art of Smallfilms (5)|
|A strange new look for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (32)|