Tsarist Russia in colour



A while ago I came across an amazing photo archive of the work of a Russian photographer called Sergei Produkin-Gorsky. I’ve been longing for a way to share it with as many people as possible, so here’s a post dedicated to his work. Produkin-Gorsky (1863 – 1944) was a chemist and photographer. He developed an early form of colour photography which involved taking three black and white pictures in (fairly) quick succession – one through a blue filter, one through a red, and another through a green. Once developed, the resulting picture could be projected through the three filters to create the rich photographs you see here. There’s a more detailed and better explanation of the process on the wikipedia page here.

With the help of some kit and funding provided by the last tsar, Nicholas II, Produkin-Gorsky was able to carry out a personal vision of traveling around the Russian Empire documenting life at the beginning of the twentieth century.

I’ve chosen just a few of these images to show the diversity of the people, places, landscapes, buildings, activities and objects that he documented. The negatives were bought by the US Library of Congress in 1948, and are available to see on their website here. All of the photos were taken between around 1905 and 1915.










12.Saluktin Mines











Image List

1. Peasant girls, 1909.

2. In the middle, 17th century carved wooden image of Christ lying in His Tomb; on the sides, carved wooden figures of St. John the Theologian and St. John the Baptist. In the Rostov Museum.

3. At Kivach waterfall, 1915.

4. Work at the Borkalsk ore mine

5. Old church of St. Nicholas, the Miracle Worker in the village of Nyrob.

6. Sart woman in Samarkand, 1905 and 1915.

7. Emir of Bukhara, 1911.

8. Unidentified.

9. Constructing concrete floor of the dam, Beloomut, 1912.

10. Carpet merchant, Samarkand.

11. A mirror.

12. The Saliuktin mines, near Samarkand.

13. Greek women gathering tea, near Chakva, the Caucasaus.

14. Bamboo trees, Chakva.

15. Old church of St Nicholas the wonder worker, Nyrob, 1910.

16. Flowers.

17. On the Sim River.

18. Triglolastochka or sea cock (Chelidonichthys)

19. Mirza-uluk-bek Registan square in Samarkand, between 1905 and 1915.

20. Haystack, 1909.

21. A woman standing at the entrance of a yurt.

22. Sunset over the sea.

2 thoughts on “Tsarist Russia in colour

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