The Amazing Color Photography of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii
The Library of Congress has a spectacular collection of photos by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii that you must see. What makes them so amazing? Well, they are color photos taken about 100 years ago.
The process used to create and develop the photos is revolutionary yet simple. Essentially, three separate shots are taken, each with a different color filter over the lens: one red, one blue, and one green. The shots are then composited to form incredibly lifelike color portraits. It’s actually quite similar to color compositing in modern applications like Photoshop, but to see it applied to photos taken 100 years ago is mindblowing.
When I first saw this photo collection, my initial reaction was that it was fake, because these shots look like they could have been taken a few years ago. When you grow up in the modern color photography era, you’re subconsciously conditioned to actually think of the world as black and white around the turn of the 19th century because those are the only photos you ever see from that period. To see real-life scenes from back then in full color is surreal.
Prokudin-Gorskii’s collection is one of the most amazing I can ever remember seeing, and I’ve only gone through a few hundred photos so far. Here’s where to start:
- The exhibit home
- The making of the images
- A listing of some of the best pieces from the collection
- A browsable gallery of the entire collection