Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | October 15, 2013

Tuesday Art Blogging: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky


Young Russian peasant women in a rural area along the Sheksna River, near the town of Kirillov, about 360 miles north of Moscow, circa 1909-15.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was a Russian photographer and a pioneer in the techniques of color photography.

Basically, he would take three filtered black-and-white photographs: one with a red filter, one with a blue filter, and one with a green filter. The three images would then be combined to render a color photograph. Some of his exposures were between 3 and 6 seconds, and taking all three images would sometimes take up to a minute (though not always so long). So, action photographs were not really an option — but his process worked well enough for portraits and landscapes.

L.N.Tolstoy Prokudin-Gorsky

Portrait of Tolstoy, 1908.

Prokudin-Gorsky took a famous portrait photograph of Leo Tolstoy in 1908 (about two years before the author’s death). According to Wikipedia, “The fame from this photo and his earlier photos of Russia’s nature and monuments earned him invitations to show his work to the Russian Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1908, and to Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1909. The Tsar enjoyed the demonstration, and, with his blessing, Prokudin-Gorsky got the permission and funding to document Russia in color. In the course of ten years, he was to make a collection of 10,000 photos.”


Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, 1911.

Prokudin-Gorsky fled Russia in August 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, and settled with his family in Paris (along with many other Russian emigres), establishing a photo studio there. He died in that city about one month after the Allies liberated Paris from the Germans in 1944.


Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky self-portrait, 1912.


Railroad Bridge over the Kama River, near Perm.


Melon vendor in Samarkand, circa 1905-1915.

Sunni Muslim man wearing traditional dress and headgear

Sunni Muslim man, Dagestan, 1904. He is wearing his military medal, and wearing traditional dress and headgear.

Image Credits: All images from Wikimedia Commons. See also this gallery.



  1. Ain’t those pics the bomb? It’s difficult for me to rid my imagination of the notion that people pre-Technicolor dressed in dull colors.

    • Blame Monty Python and the Spaghetti Westerns.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: