Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii


S. M. Prokudin-GorskiiThe photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) offer a vivid portrait of a lost world – the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming revolution.

Born in St. Petersburg and educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii devoted his career to the advancement of photography. In the early 1900s, he developed an ingenious technique of taking colour photographs. The same object was captured in black and white on glass plate negatives, using red, green and blue filters. He then presented these images in colour in slide lectures using a light-projection system.

Supported by Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915, Prokudin-Gorskii completed surveys of eleven regions of Russia, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia's diverse population.

In 1918, after the revolution, Prokudin-Gorskii went into exile, taking with him only his collection of nearly 2,000 glass-plate negatives and his photograph albums. The collection was purchased by the Library of Congress (LOC) in 1948 from his heirs.

In 2001, the number of glass plates have been scanned and, through an innovative process known as digichromatography, brilliant colour images have been produced. Virtual exhibition The Empire that Was Russia attracted millions of people throughout the world.

When I first saw Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs, I was so amazed and fascinated that immediately decided to try digichromatography myself. I have downloaded and restored 156 images that you can see on my website. Because of many years of negligent storage, most of the negatives are in very poor condition, and it takes me hours of scrupulous work to restore their original brilliance. Hundreds of unique colour images of the past are still waiting to be returned back to life.


If you would like to purchase the full collection of my restorations (160 JPEGs, about 3000 x 3000 pixels each), please send $30 to my Paypal account and I will provide you with the download link.