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Historical Colored Photos Of Russia Before The Revolution (1905-1915)

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was a famous Russian chemist and photographer. Born in 1963 in Murom, Vladimir Province, Russia, Prokudin-Gorsky not only took pictures of important people in Russian history but was also a pioneer in the use of color photography.

1905-1915. Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, seated holding sword.photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915.  Merchant's display includes silk, cotton, and wool fabrics as well as a few carpets. A framed page of the Koran hangs at the top of the stall.photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. Full-length profile portrait of a woman, possibly Turkman or Kirgiz, standing on a carpet at the entrance to a yurt, dressed in traditional clothing and jewelry.photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. Pinkhus Karlinskii. Eighty-four years old. Sixty-six years of service. Supervisor of Chernigov floodgate. [Russian Empire]photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 


He became a famous photographer in Russia after his Leo Tolstoy colored portrait.  His work of Tolstoy was widely distributed in different publications.  In 1908, he earned a commendation after Russian Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna invited him to show his famous colored portrait and his earlier photos of Russia’s nature and monuments. 


1910. Bashkir switchman
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1910. Turkmen man posing with camel loaded with sacks, probably of grain or cotton, Central Asia.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. Tea factory in Chakva. Chinese foreman Lau-Dzhen-Dzhau.


photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. An old man, probably and ethnic Tajik, standing in the snow, holding a brace of dead birds.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress


He was also invited to demonstrate his works to the family of Tsar Nicholas II.  The royal family liked his photographs and his presentation so much that he was given a fund and authority to pursue his photographic journey and to document Russia in color.  The project assigned by the Tsar was later described as his life’s work.


1905-1915. Sunni Muslim man wearing traditional dress and headgear, with a sheathed dagger at his side.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. Dagestani couple posed outdoors for a portrait.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1910. Two men and a woman posed outdoors at the Zlatoust arms plant.

photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1915. Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, an official and four railway workers riding on a railroad handcar.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress


The technique behind Prokudin-Gorsky’s color photography was advance for its time.  He made it possible by using the three-color principle in which he captured three separate photographs with the same subject using three different colored filters - red, green, and blue.  When the three exposures were combined through a chromoscope, it appeared to be a real colored photograph to the viewer.


1905-1915. Zindan (prison), with inmates looking out through the bars and a guard with Russian rifle, uniform, and boots, Central Asia.

photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress

1905-1915. Family of three, kneeling in a field.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress

1905-1915. Mugan. Settler's family. Settlement of Grafovka.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1905-1915. Group of workers harvesting tea. Greek women. 

photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress


After the October Revolution, he left Russia in 1918 and travelled to Norway, England and later settled with his family in Paris.  Before leavingRussia however, half of his photographic materials were confiscated and destroyed by the authorities who believed these were strategically sensitive during war time.


1910. Monks at work. Planting potatoes. [Gethsemane Monastery]
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1912. Workers and supervisors posing for photograph amid preparations for pouring cement for sluice dam foundation across the Oka River near Beloomut.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress  

1905-1915. People standing near Ekaterinin, or Catherine's, Spring at a spa in Borzhom.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1909. Farm workers standing near their farm equipment, taking break from haying.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress 

1910. A family, with shovels and horse-drawn carts, working at the iron mines in the Bakaly hills.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress

1909. Russian children sitting on the side of a hill near a church and bell tower in the countryside near White Lake, in the north of European Russia.
photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky | Library Of Congress

After more than two decades living in Paris with his family, he died in 1944 at the age of 81.

The surviving photo albums and other photographic materials of Prokudin-Gorsky were then later purchased by the The United State Library Of Congress from his heirs in 1948.

Sources: Library Of CongressWikipediaMashable