Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Photographs

Posted on

haystacks -- Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii at the Library of Congress

Those are exotic-looking haystacks, eh?  The shot was taken by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii.  About a hundred years ago.

Prokudin-Gorskii made colour photos by taking three black-and-white images with red, green, and blue (the primary colours of light) filters.  In his time the colour images could be viewed by projecting the images over one another using the same filters.  In recent times (actually a few years ago now), the US Library of Congress, who purchased the plates from Gorskii’s heirs in 1948, digitally recomposited the shots and made them available to view in an online exhibit.  The exhibit is well worth a peek and includes a very nice section on how the digital colour copies were made from the original glass plates.

Some of the ones that get me the most are ones like this, and this, and this (it’s really hard to just choose a few), without people posing or period costume. Photos with colours that I relate to in my reality, scenes that look that as though they could still exist. Navigation of the collection could be a bit easier: I can’t see a way back to the main search results page from an individual entry, and even the individual entry pages seem to have urls which expire.  Nevertheless, it’s hard not to just keep clicking on the next of the 2606 photos — if you’re not careful you could be there for hours!

Here’s another of my favourites:

laika -- Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii at the Library of Congress

Thanks to Mike Davidson for sharing the find.