Friday, August 26, 2011

magical early color photography

apropos yesterday's post on russian literature, i came across (thanks to melissa of tiny happy) this marvelous collection of color photos taken by sergei prokudin-gorskii in the decade before the russian revolution. yes, you read that correctly, color photos taken at the beginning of the last century.


prokudin-gorskii used a special camera that took 3 images at once and he used blue, green and red filters, then projected the images together to make the composite color image. you can read more about the process here. aside: i do realize the first two images are not color, but i wanted to share them anyway (you'll see why below).

peasant woman

the library of congress has digitized some of the collection and you can peruse it online here. but do go look at the spread that did of them - it's breathtaking. i have left the edges here, as they are when you download them from the library of congress site, as i think the process by which the negatives are put together is fascinating.

in the urals
these images simply take my breath away. it's revolutionary photography from a pre-revolutionary time. i'm completely blown away by them.

along the volga
i think the fact that they're in color makes them so much more alive and says something about a basic human need for color. i relate to them so much more because they're in color.

along the volga
the color also gives them a kind of timelessness that black and white photos of the same subjects simply don't have (see the top two).  many of them, i feel as if they could have been taken yesterday.

i realized also when i stumbled across them that i had been positively LONGING for some truly breathtaking photography. i'm really tired of that over-exposed, false-vintage look that's so prevalent everywhere in the blogosphere and on flickr.

windmill houses
and these magical little windmill houses provoke me so much more than all of the slick architecture magazine photography that abounds on pinterest.  and they're about as far as you can get from the "achingly poetic" shots of toast crumbs and empty coffee cups that are so in vogue.

peasant girls
and these girls? yes, they're posing for the camera in a way that's most decidedly not in fashion at the moment, but aren't they marvelous?

peasant woman
these photos (and the many more i perused on the library of congress site) fed my soul and irrigated my joy today and i hope they do yours as well.

happy weekend one and all!


Viola said...

These are amazing!

celkalee said...

amazing. stark almost detached, mysterious to me, as are most elements of Russian society. your reaction/response hints at an itch for travel, yes? to stretch your photographic lenses, so to speak.

d smith kaich jones said...

love these! thank you!

Jennifer said...

I love these photos! I just showed them to my Russian boyfriend (in the midst of planning our evacuation for the hurricane) and he enjoyed them as well. Thank you for sharing!

Shokoofeh said...


SH -ic said...

I love your curious ly blog art .. were did you see them ?

Anonymous said...

these are wonderful! thanks for sharing.

poet said...

I saw these earlier, and I agree - they are stunning.