The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection features color photographic surveys of the vast Russian Empire made between ca. 1905 and 1915. Frequent subjects among the 2,607 distinct images include people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry and agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, and views of villages and cities. An active photographer and scientist, Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook most of his ambitious color documentary project from 1909 to 1915. The Library of Congress purchased the collection from the photographer’s sons in 1948.
Sergei Prokudin-Gorski was born on August 30, 1863 in Founikova Gora. According to his family, he would have studied at the Imperial High School Alexander of St. Petersburg, however no document comes to prove it. He finished the St. Petersburg Technological Institute, where he attended Dmitry Mendeleyev’s classes. He continued his chemistry studies in Berlin and Paris. He collaborates with famous chemists and inventors including German Adolf Miethe. Together, they are working on the development of color photography methods.
His early research was aimed at producing positive color films for still images (slides) and cinema. He developed a device to successively impress 3 monochrome plates through three filters. By simultaneously projecting these three red, green and blue images with judiciously filtered light sources, the original colors were reconstructed by additive synthesis.
From 1902, he conducted a series of experiments on color photography with trichromatic rooms. In 1905, he organized the projection of a series of 70 plates in front of an assembly of photographers and scientists who obtained a great success because of the fidelity of the colors obtained. The same year, he performs a similar demonstration in Moscow.
In 1906, he won both the Antwerp World Fair and the Nice Photography Club. He became editor of Fotograf-lioubitel (Фотограф-любитель, “The Amateur Photographer”), the most important Russian photography magazine, founded in 1890, to which he gives a more scientific orientation by publishing a series of articles on color photography .
However, he did not know how to make prints on paper, only reproductions by a process of printing (lithography) of low quality as for the rendering of the colors because of the necessary transformation of the additive image in subtractive. Despite the reduced time interval between the 3 photos (a second seems it), moving subjects gave blurry images.
Article by Claudiu C. CREȚU
Source: Library of Cogress
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