If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pictures of Old Russia

Via The Boston Globe, I saw this collection of photographs, which I thought were worthy of a post.

Working for Tsar Nicholas II, the photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii did a photographic survey of the Russian Empire between 1909 and 1912. The American Library of Congress purchased the plates in 1948. He was clearly a talented photographer, but what makes the images astonishing is that they are in full colour, at a time when the First World War had not even begun and the Soviet Revolution was several years in the future. He used a specialised camera which took three images in quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, and the images were later combined in a projector to produce the full-colour shots that we can see today.

There is one image (27) where the three constituent images have failed to register correctly and you see the cheap-binoculars effect, but otherwise the colours and the resolution are stunning. We are used to seeing old photographs, but the usual images from that period are sepia or crude monochrome, with poor resolution and often evidence of damage or poor storage. These shots could have been taken yesterday. Image 28, of the Emir of Bukhara, would not look out of place in a modern National Geographic magazine.

Go and have a look, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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