It is almost incomprehensible that these colour photographs were taken in Russian Empire a century ago, even before the beginning of World War I! Such early years as 1909-1915, the years that these pictures were taken, are deeply engraved in our imagination as the world of black and white. Therefore these rare images by trained photographer and chemist Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944) strike us with awe.
The photographs were taken with specialized camera in three shots: one in red filter, one in green, and one in blue. All three of these filtered black and white photos would then be layered together and projected as transparancies (“slides”) with the same filters on screen, this way restoring the whole range of colours, very close to the true colours of photographed objects. Prokudin-Gorsky was a pioneer of this three-colour process technique, highly complex and expensive at the time.
Tsar Nickolas II was extremely fond of Prokudin-Gosrky’s early works and even commissioned his travel throughout southern and central Russia to take colour photographs of its nature, towns and people. After the October Revolution, however, he fled Russia and took the negatives with him, which were bought U.S. Library of Congress in 1948 and published only in 1980.