About this 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.
The online collection presents Prokudin-Gorskii's vision and legacy in several image formats:
- Glass negatives: 1,902 b&w triple-frame images made with color separation filters
- Sepia-tone prints: 705 photos for which no glass negatives exist (reproduced from Prokudin-Gorskii's albums)
- Album pages showing all 2,433 sepia-tone prints and captions
- Modern color composites: 1,902 digital images made from the glass negatives in 2004
- Modern color renderings: 1,380 digital files made from the glass negatives in 2000-2001 and 2005-2022.
Background and Scope
LC-DIG-ppmsc-04445 Using emerging technological advances in color photography, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) made numerous photographic trips to systematically document the Russian Empire. He conducted most of his visual surveys between 1909 and 1915, although some of his work dates as early as 1905. The Empire at this time stretched 7,000 miles from west to east and 3,000 miles from north to south and comprised one-sixth of the earth's land mass. It was the largest empire in history and spanned what today are eleven different times zones.
Tsar Nicholas II supported this ambitious project by providing passes and transportation: by rail, boat and automobile. Each journey made by Prokudin-Gorskii is represented by a photographic album and corresponding negatives. There is also an album of various studies, including views in Europe.
Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs show:
- sacred architecture and associated shrines of note (churches, cathedrals, monasteries, and mosques)
- liturgical and secular objects of historic significance (vestments, icons, reliquaries, and other objects relating to saints, previous Tsars, and the Napoleonic War)
- public works (the engineering, construction, and use of railroads, bridges, dams, canals, locks, and roads)
- industry (iron, gold, and copper mining; production of cotton and silverware; professions as varied as shepherds and street vendors)
- agriculture (tea plantations and farming activities such as planting and haying)
- people, often posed in traditional clothing
- views of cities, villages, waterfronts, landscapes, and flowering plants.
The online collection presents Prokudin-Gorskii's vision and legacy in several formats; each distinct image is represented by one or more digital reproductions. [ Retrieve examples showing both negatives and prints]
Chronological Summary of the Trips and Albums
Note: Links retrieve the bibliographic record for the album, with its associated digitized album pages.