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An Empire Past In Color

by DoDo Sun May 20th, 2007 at 08:43:24 AM EST

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) was a pioneer of color photography. His method was to take successive black & white glass plate photographs with three different color filters, and then show the images by superimposing them on a screen, using a special projection device.

A century ago, Prokudin-Gorskii got the Tsar's endorsement for a project of documenting the Russian Empire: its architecture, landscapes, people, and nascent industry. After the revolution, Prokudin-Gorskii left the country with most of his images, which ended up in the archives of the US Library of Congress. Then, in 2001, some sixty of the image trios were scanned, digitally cleaned, and merged into a color picture, and shown in the exhibition The Empire That Was Russia. Toronto-based graphics designer Alex Gridenko restored another 64.

Boris and Gleb Monastery near Torzhok, from the bridge; 1910 [Gridenko]

These images provide a breathtaking color view into a past before war and revolutionary destruction, modern industry and air pollution, graffiti and power lines. Unless something moved between the takes (kid's head, smoke, water), quality is often like that of a modern digital photo. Below the fold, I give you some taste of it.


Let's start with some peasants:

Young Russian peasant women offer berries to visitors to their izba, a traditional wooden house, in a rural area along the Sheksna River near the small town of Kirillov; 1909 [TETWR]

The wide rolling fields where agriculture dominates:

River Koloch at the village of Gorki with a high bank, near Borodino Battlefield; 1911 [Gridenko]

Now let's see some peasants working before the spread of motorised machinery:

An early autumn scene from 1909 shows farmers taking a short break from their work to pose for their photograph. The location, though unidentified, is probably near the town of Cherepovets in north central European Russia [TETWR]

Look what is standing out in a landscape of plank houses, dirt roads, trees and grass -- the dominion of the Church really showed:

A dirt road leads to the brightly painted seventeenth-century Cathedral of St. Nicholas amid modest residential structures in Mozhaisk, west of Moscow; 1911 [TETWR]

The Russian Empire wasn't all Christian:

The Pamir Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for an evening view of the Shakh-i Zindeh Mosque in Samarkand, a complex of graves and mortuary chapels built over many centuries for the women of the dynasties descended from Timur (Tamerlane, 1336-1405), the great medieval ruler of Central Asia; 1911 [TETWR]

More traditional trades:

A carpenter at work in Samarkand; between 1905 and 1915 [Gridenko]

But modern industry was already spreading across the empire, in all its dirtiness:

General view of Zlatoust, with Zlatoust plant and the Church of Three Saints; 1910 [Gridenko]

Though, there was modern architectural aesthetics, too:

At an unidentified location, a railroad truss bridge built on stone support columns crosses one of the wide Siberian rivers that flow northwards to the Arctic Ocean--possibly the Irtysh or the Tobol [neither: it's the Kama River bridge; LoC researchers were lazy... Real Irtysh and real Tobol bridges -DoDo]; between 1907 and 1915 [TETWR]

But modern technology could also fit into the landscape -- like on this cryingly beautiful autumn image in the Ural mountains (which was the one that led me to the whole collection):

View from the rear platform of the Simskaia (Simskaya) Station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway (or South Ural Railway); 1910 [Gridenko]

Prokudin-Gorskii also photographed politically sensitive images. Here is one that escaped the watchful eyes of border guards:

In the early years of the First World War, Prokudin-Gorskii photographed a group of prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The men are probably Poles, Ukrainians, and members of other Slavic nationalities, imprisoned at an unidentified location in the far north of European Russia near the White Sea; 1915 [TETWR]

The above is just a small thematic selection, and image size is reduced. You should really check out The Empire That Was Russia as well as Alex Gridenko's album. I'll close this with a self-portrait of Prokudin-Gorskii:

Prokudin-Gorskii poses near a mountain stream, thought to be the Karolitskhali River in the Caucasus Mountains near the seaport of Batumi on the eastern coast of the Black Sea; between 1907 and 1915 [TETWR]

Update [2007-5-21 12:55:44 by DoDo]: If you go to the Library of Congress page, you can click through to view the entire collection!!! Not all images are top quality, however, you can download background image sized high-resolution versions of the best.

Display:
I took the image captions from the source sites. Note my insertion in the caption of that long bridge: it took me two minutes to find out what the archivists of the Library of Congress couldn't...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 08:46:14 AM EST
Pictures are amazingly beautiful... Quite a smart color technology. Did many photographers use it?

I recognized the Kama bridge from a Wikipedia page. Oh, the same page has the "beautiful autumn" picture from the same collection as well! (Coincidence?) Though I wonder a bit whether the rainbow patch of autumn (?!) trees is not an artefact of the color technology.

by das monde on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:29:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found the Prokudin-Gorskii images via that beautiful autumn image on the Wiki page, as can be guessed from that reply to you I linked. I didn't notice/remember that the Kama river bridge was one the Wiki page, too. At any rate, had I seen it there, I would still had to look up the other bridges to go for sure (Wiki can err, too).

What I did was to look up the old photos section at Transsib.ru. You'll find three pictures of the first Irtysh river bridge, including one showing it blown up by retreating Whites, and one of the Tobol bridge in the West Siberia sub-section; the pictures of several longer river bridges, including Yenisei, Ob, and Tom' in the Middle Siberia sub-section, and finally you will find Prokudin-Gorskii's image and a B&W poscard picture of the Kama bridge in the European Approaches sub-section (also pictures of another candidate, Yaroslavl Bridge).

I wonder a bit whether the rainbow patch of autumn (?!) trees is not an artefact of the color technology.

With this technique, can't be. For that, there would have been (1) motion of something away from the place where it is bluish-green to where it is red, (2) what moves should be whitish/brownish. With green trees bowing in the wind, that won't go. You should also inspect closely to original picture (which is 800 pixels wide). I think it is more the case that sunlight, possibly across clouds or maybe some mountain pass, gives the dramatic effect by enhancing the colours of autumn trees in the middle. (I photographed something similar last year, but you have to wait until the afternoon to see it as I have to update the image links.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 05:31:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A nice case of digging things up!

My color effect suspicion for the autumn picture is the following: the "red-color" plate may have a defectively developed patch at the forest region. For some reason, that patch on the "red-negative" might be developed... darker  than it had to be, I suppose. If you look carefully, the clearly red patch goes over to yellow (which is a mix of red and green for our eyes) then to light green and then to background green. This is explainable with a defective patch on the "red-negative"... though then we should assume a second deffective patch giving a yellow strip on the left side. I think the matter can be settled by looking at the picture through a red filter - does the red patch changes intensity continuously, is the tree texture visible?

I got suspicious to see nicely separated red/yellow patches, because I could see such views only in Japan, where they deliberately plant trees for the beautiful traditional autumn views.

by das monde on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 06:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gridenko writes that he digitally restored the scanned images (e.g. all three B&W plates), so such an error could have been corrected. At any rate, if you have an image siftware, you can apply a red filter very simply. With Irfanview, I don't see contiuous intensity change. I reiterate though that would sunlight fall there, you would probably see yellow-red colours to the right and left of that patch in the centre, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 06:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not have time to dig for a red filter now...

When it looks great, you don't readily think of an error. If the sun light falls in the middle, what about the yellowish patch on the left? It is clearly at other angle or mountain slope. The foreground trees and plants do not indicate autumn at all, while the background trees should normally be pine family, which change color late or not at all. The light green forest patches look most artificial to me.

by das monde on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 07:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The other patch is another hole in the clouds. As for different angle, relative to what? The first illuminated patch is on a side valley, and the upper-right part of it is at a similar angle. Light green forest is just illuminated forest. If you magnify the foreground trees, or look at the red-green-blue colour of the background, you'll see that there is autumn on some of them, but due to a deficiency of red light in illumination, it is not too visible. I made an enhanced colour blow-up for you:

I repeat that I hope to show you similar effects on my own autumn photographs from last year.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 08:14:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Image links in my old diary now updated. The first and third image are from a sequence when a patch of sunlight came up to my position. I think the lack of red visible on the further away, in-shade mountain, and the full green of the grass in the foreground is well visible, as well as differences between tree types (though these are all hillside trees, no sediment valley trees here). Also look at this image I made a year earlier, where the real contrast between different kinds of trees is strong.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:42:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot imagine how 3 plates could be taken at the same time in the same plane, therefore there must a a time lag - however short - between pictures. Anything moving - such as smoke will be displaced in the three images.

I could imagine three plates, side by side in a frame, that could be rapidly slid in in and out of position to be exposed. It would be possible, in this method, to have people sit or stand still long enough for the 3 exposures.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 03:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess the Sun is on the right side on Prokudin-Gorsky's picture, judging from the central patch. But then the patch on the left is on the other side of the mountain, or reflecting the sunlight away or to the left from the viewer. I cannot figure out how sunlight works out there, or what kind of trees are where.

For the patch on the left, the border is neat between the front green trees and light trees at the back, which is encouraging. But I still see color changes more "technical" than natural. Can you post the "red negative"? Or are there any Japanese autumn pictures of that period?

by das monde on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 03:07:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
????

Even if subject only to scattered light, the water tower is a clear indication that the Sun is to the right and back of the camera (e.g. at 4-5 hours). I can't get your view of the mountainside however.

On one hand, what we are looking at is the hilly side of a valley at a bend, not a lone circular mountain. On the other hand, I repeat that if you look at the central patch closely, you'll see that it covers both sides of a smaller side valley/depression. That is visible even on the blue (first) frame (see links at bottom). One side is at the same angle as the patch to the left. Check the look of the area a century later on Google Maps (direct link centered on the station; what the photo looks at is to the East, the smaller side valley is well visible with a brownish left and a black right side; the forest closer to the station is gone).

I don't understand what you can't figure out about the kind of trees. I think my enhanced blow-up clearly shows at least two types of trees on the far mountainside (and at least three closer on flat land), one in autumn and another still fully green, intermixed on the whole mountainside, whether illuminated or not.

On the below linked negatives, both patches of sunlight are clearly to be seen both on the green and red frames. Upon close inspection, there is a possibility that the cloud hole moved right between them, which may explain the yellow-greenish colours of the left-bottom edge and the reddish colour of the top-right part of the patch at centre, but the same could be caused by the different angle (both to the Sun and to the camera).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 07:06:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, ok. I saw the negatives, as you know. Cloud movement may indeed affect these photos interestingly.

Sorry and thanks for hard work :-)

by das monde on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 07:34:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gotta earn my PN badge ;-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 09:30:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These pictures were taken with a conventional camera (I presume using glass slides) fixed on a tripod. Three were exposed in succession with red, green and blue filters used for the different exposures.

In the cross-post I describe the Autochrome process which enabled colour pictures to be taken on a single slide which was processed so that it produced a positive image, not a "negative".

Colour cameras were available. These split the image coming into the camera into the three colours. The simplest way is to simply strap three together but the more sophisticated used mirrors and filters to use the same lens to project three different colour images onto three separate plates. A technique which continues in TV, you will see some top of the line semi-professional camcorders advertised as having "3 CCD" or receptor chips.

by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 05:57:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The yellow patch would have come about if there was sunlight on the area during the time the picture was being taken using a blue filter. (Yellow is the colour negative of blue)
by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:03:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]


If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 08:48:45 AM EST
Thanks so much for this.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:23:59 AM EST


Dudehisattva...
"Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"
by dood abides on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:47:16 AM EST
Thanks DoDo! Impressive pictures.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:52:41 AM EST
These are amazing photos.  Thank you for posting this.  

The first thing I thought of when I saw the picture of the peasant girls was, "how DID they get that purple?"  Purple (and blue) are not easy colors to fix when dying fabric.

by powered grace on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:53:59 AM EST
I think the Library of Congress reproductions are a bit over-saturated, and that's most visible on that image. (There are some LoC images Gridenko re-did, he was apparently not satisfied, and saturation is one difference.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:47:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, this is quite amazing.

What many people don't realize about Russia is that it still is an Empire.
Three of the largest train stations in Moscow, Kazanskii, Iaroslavlskii, and Leningradskii vakzal, are situated in the same district. I spent many hours there strolling, watching people from the Caucasus, Karelia, Urals, Northern Siberia, Mongolia, waiting for trains that would depart hours or days later, some of them hoping over China to reach the Pacific.

What people don't realize too is how life in the outer reaches of the Empire goes its own path, at its own speed, so much so that some places hardly differ from the above photographs.

I will try one day to translate some travel notes I took.

Thanks.

by balbuz on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 12:46:29 PM EST
That would be very appreciated!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 02:06:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beautiful pictures, thank you. The clarity of light and air is breathtaking. I recall reading that prior to industrial pollution, general visibility was something like, oh, 40 or 50 miles on a clear day. Now, not so much.

You see the beginnings in the photo of Zlatoust: There's a prism/rainbow effect in the smokestack effluent. I'm guessing it's from oil particles going into the air?

by Mnemosyne on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 12:56:45 PM EST
That's most likely because the smoke moved between the red, green and blue exposures.

This would be an interesting effect to recreate deliberately - three different stills of movement, with red, green and blue pulled out of each in Photoshop, and then combined into a single frame.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 01:23:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds like a reasonable explanation. Thanks.

I like the idea of different stills with one color out of each, them combined. Perhaps someone with more Photoshop skill than mine (zero) might do this.

by Mnemosyne on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 01:59:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beutiful pictures, the technique does give some wierd effects, the stream in the picture with the old man looks oddly plastic.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 01:02:29 PM EST
Exposure time I guess.
by Laurent GUERBY on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 01:05:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm amazed that they could get people to sit that still for the three exposures necessary to make the technique work

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 03:20:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Wikipedia entry on him indicates that the camera took the three monochrome images "in rapid sequence," so people may not have had to stay still for that long.  And the process must have been automated, or else there's no way he could have taken his own self-portrait.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 03:45:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming the camera had a set-up similar to a simple modern view camera, with movements that locked securely, it's a matter of insert plate, remove cover, expose, remove plate, repeat. You're talking exposure time plus maybe maybe fifteen-thirty seconds for each plate, once you're set up and good at it.

He could take his self-portrait by having someone else run the camera!

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 08:30:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd also have to change the filters. The obvious way to do this would be to set all three in a rail arrangement so you could slide each into place with a with a quick flick. Doing it manually would get laborious.

Looking at the photos, I'd guess exposure times of 1-10 seconds, which was really quite speedy for the time.

Do any of his cameras survive? It would be interesting to see what the technology looked like.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 10:20:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looky here:

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky (Prokudin-Gorskii)


Three-color camera designed by A. Miethe and produced by Bermpohl Company. Prokudin-Gorsky used camera of this type.

Glass negative taken by Prokudin-Gorsky with this type of camera.
Around the turn of the 20th century an important advance was made by Professors Vogel (1834-1898) and Miethe (1862-1927) in Germany who significantly improved the sensibility of the emulsion to the red light. Miethe also developed a very practical design of the triple-color camera which used a negative glass plate 8 by 24 cm.


Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944)
In 1902-1904 a Russian scientist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944) worked at Miethe's laboratory and fully mastered the technique of Dreifarbenphotographie nach der Natur. After this he devoted his life to further developing this technology as well as to creating the collection of the Splendors of Russia in Natural Colors. Most of his color photographs were taken between 1904 and 1916.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cool, so it's a modified field camera, with proper movements only on the front. Where are the filters though? On the plates?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:43:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know, but while I searched for this, I think I saw a half-sentence about a triple-lens ocular somewhere.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:45:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That three-colour projector in the link must have been, er, interesting to set up.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 01:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The bit about changing emulsion sensivity to red light would appear to indicate that there were no filters, but plates coated with an emulsion only sensitive to one of the three colours.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 03:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I think that's a reference to the poor sensitivity of the black and white emulsion to red light, which would rather screw up your colour photographs. If the three exposure are on a single glass plate then I don't think there can be different emulsions involved.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 06:11:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even though that happened to be the modern celluloid solution. But as I noted above, (and confirmed by later posts showing the system) there were 3 plates involved exposed sequentially.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 09:11:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
3 plates on the same glass, surely?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 09:14:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they were coated with different emulsions (and this is something you can do yourself), then there would be 3 separate plates mounted in a single frame. The plates would be moved sequentially in front of the lens and probably require different exposure times due to emulsion sensitivity.

TBG guessed 1 - 10 secs per plate exposure. Judging by the movement of water in the last picture above, I'd say shorter rather than longer. Assuming some efficient mechanical method of sliding the plates (or the lens), the overall time for the exposure of the three plates would be  several seconds.

A sliding lens, though perhaps faster, would displace the angle of the lens to the subject, so can probably be discounted.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:30:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.goshen.edu/art/DeptPgs/photoemulsion.html

I had a friend back in the Sixties who blacked out his room, painted one wall with a photosensitive emulsion, exposed it via an adapted enlarger, washed it, fixed it, washed it again, and ended up with an amazing wall that he had to leave behind when he moved 3 years laters;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:34:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could do it that way - though matching emulsions and projection filters sounds like a way to while away several winter's evenings - but it's quite clear from the descriptions elsewhere in the thread that there was a single glass negative which moved on the back of the camera.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:37:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that what to do on winter evenings was the problem then ;.)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:38:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean ET is not enough to while away all your free time?

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:42:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I had any free time I might while some of it away on ET.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:52:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it weren't for ET, I guess we'd all be emulsifying all over the place.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW Collodion exposure times in 1851, were 3 seconds.

1861 saw the James Clerk-Maxwell colour system using B/W pictures with red green and blue filters. The first commercial colour film was available in 1907.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:46:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely a single glass negative as there are alignment problems that cut off some parts of the image in the different colours. You would not get that if you used three separate plates in their individual holders.
by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:39:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the model displayed above had a single glass plate. But I've seen others that worked in a different fashion.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 10:36:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Simple
The filters could either have been placed over the lens or on a wheel within  or behind the lens, rotated to bring the right colour into play. I suspect that it was simply the former.

The glass slides are long and thin and account for the modified plate holder at the back. These were a single strip so it is highly unlikely that different colour sensitivities came into play. Between exposures, the plate was moved down to reveal an unexposed section.  The link I give is confusing as clearly the originals are black and white negatives. He would have contact printed onto similar glass plates to provide the positives for his projector. Colour compensation could be arranged by varying the iris on the projector lens but I suspect that the simple fact the central part of the picture was in full colour was enough, even if by todays standards it would have been distorted.

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/making.html

by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:27:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This image is pretty good for estimating the time sequence: it contains a walking man relatively close, as well as rising smoke.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 02:08:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wow!  great pics!

it's amazing how short people were then!

also, I don't think the POW's are near the White Sea - the trees are too big for it to be there.

I really love Russia - I enjoy large expanses of unspoiled land and there is plenty of that there.

by zoe on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 02:47:23 PM EST
What a fantastic diary, and what truly astonishing photos.  Thanks so much for sharing them.

The colors are so vivid, and the images so sharp... utterly different from anything else I've seen from that era.  It's hard to believe they're nearly 100 years old, and yet there's no way that those images could be taken today, either.

I can't stop looking at them.  That photo from Samarkand is just breathtaking.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 02:56:06 PM EST
Wow.  All of the above, DoDo.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 03:19:55 PM EST
Fabulous, DoDo, thanks.

I foresee another diary on autochromes, the Lumière brothers' technique using dyed (RGB) potato starch. Autochromes I've seen have splendid, richly saturated colours. Sometimes a pointillist touch, but so what are pixels? And, since they're from a century ago as here, (first autochrome 1907, hey, there should be a centennial this year), they offer views of a world that has hugely changed since.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 04:53:47 PM EST
These are amazing. Thanks.
by rootless2 on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 06:57:56 PM EST
Two years or so ago we were in New York. My daughter and I chanced on a small museum (Museum of New York?) across from the northern end of Central Park on the east side. In it was a series of photographs, black and white, of New York scenes from the turn of the last century. The original photographer was either using a museum camera or donated the camera along with the pictures.

Then recently someone took the same camera and attempted to duplicate the same shots. It was fascinating.

You see where I'm going. What a trip it would be to do the same with these photographs.

Jeff Wegerson - Prairie State Blue

by wegerje on Sun May 20th, 2007 at 10:52:07 PM EST
These are absolutely gorgeous, DoDo.  Thanks!

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 12:52:31 AM EST
I cant seem to stop staring at some of them, especially the ones with people. I had instant flashbacks to Hugo Pratt, Corto Maltese and such. Thank you so much.
by Torres on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 10:27:16 AM EST
by Nonpartisan on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 01:09:30 PM EST
If someone didn't got enough, as indicated by the Update at the bottom of the diary, check out the entire collection that was all restored since to some quality. Most to a lower quality, though (if I got this right, most were done in an automated way by a program, without cleanup and cropping). Here are three:

das monde can chewck the original B&W plates of the beautiful autumn photo here.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 21st, 2007 at 01:38:30 PM EST
The entire collection can also be found on this Russian/English website. The link is set for search of "Simskaya". At the bottom of the page some restauration details are given.

But I did not succeed in finding negatives yet. You link gave me the message "Temporary file open error. Display failed."

by das monde on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 02:53:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn dynamic links! Try this. This link should send you guaranteed to a page with links to all available versions of the image, including the positive of the scan of the glass plate negatives, of which I also give direct links: 246x640 pixel JPG version, 394x1024 pixel JPG version, 70 MB original scan TIFF version.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 06:04:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, thank you! Now I can agree it must be autumn.
by das monde on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 06:36:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, didn't see this reply when I wrote the longer reply above. But you may still find the Google Maps link I gave in it interesting, at least to see to some extent (it is low-res) how the landscape changed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 07:09:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These photographs are great, of course.

Some inscriptions to the pics are not

In the early years of the First World War, Prokudin-Gorskii photographed a group of prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The men are probably Poles, Ukrainians, and members of other Slavic nationalities, imprisoned at an unidentified location in the far north of European Russia near the White Sea

Seems the folks from the library of Congress have already rewritten the WW1 history too - I guess they  think that was Russia who started the war? Probably to send to prisons Poles,Ukrainians, and members of other Slavic nationalities? Providing that the biggest part of Ukraine was a part of Russian Empire and even Wikipedia known of the anti-Russian bias in its article on the First World War gives this on Galicia, a smaller part of Ukraine (part of Austro-Hungarian Empire then):

Austro-Hungarian authorities subjected Ukrainians in Galicia who sympathised with Russia to repression. Over twenty thousand supporters of Russia were arrested and placed in an Austrian concentration camp in Talerhof, Styria

And forests in the Urals-Siberian regions do turn crimson-red-orange-yellow in autumn without any human help but as there's no any 10 dollah cheap flights over there, hardly any of you, nature-lovers, gonna check this
;)

by lana on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 04:09:34 PM EST
I guess they  think that was Russia who started the war?

From what did you guess so?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 06:29:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
from the context, naturally
by lana on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 12:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, it would be fun if this autumn, someone travelled to Simskaya and made a photograph on the same spot...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:42:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but would she (someone) find it funny too? To send a woman to a middle of nowhere just to take a pic of a railway station...
:)
by lana on Thu May 24th, 2007 at 12:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since when is any part of beautiful Russia "the middle of nowhere"?

But if you want company...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 11:18:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, Robert Clark Maxwell described this technique and produced the first colour photographs (of a piece of tartan) in 1861, a year before Gorskii was born. Agreed he did not have the fancy plate holder and the emulsions he used gave poor colour rendering and very long exposure times.
by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:35:38 AM EST
Sven mentioned James Clerk Maxwell elsewhere on this thread, and indeed it was him that is credited with "the first colour photograph" of a piece of tartan:
[James Clerk] Maxwell also made contributions to the area of optics and colour vision, being credited with the discovery that colour photographs could be formed using red, green, and blue filters. He had the photographer Thomas Sutton photograph a tartan ribbon three times, each time with a different colour filter over the lens. The three images were developed and then projected onto a screen with three different projectors, each equipped with the same colour filter used to take its image. When brought into focus, the three images formed a full colour image. The three photographic plates now reside in a small museum at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, the house where Maxwell was born.


Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:41:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, Robert Maxwell was somebody else and I must have made a finger memory link when typing.
by Londonbear on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 09:56:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No dispute here, Prokudin-Gorskii was more a pioneer of the wide use of color photography than its design. From the sources, he used a German model, which he improved upon; a model of a factory he actually worked for before.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 06:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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