Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii’s colour photographs of the Russian Empire are vividly brought to life in a new book that features 250 examples of his work from 1905-1915…
Prokudin-Gorskii wanted to capture the entirety of his native Russia as a way of providing its citizens with a stronger connection to their country and an idea of common identity. The photographer was even given a railroad car darkroom by Czar Nicholas II so that he could produce his pictures on the move.
As both a photographer and chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii developed a technique first established by Scottish mathematical physicist, James Clark Maxwell, in the mid-19th century whereby the visible spectrum was captured in the form of three black-and-white photographs taken through red, green and violet-blue filters.
Prokudin-Gorskii’s process used colour-sensitive glass plates and a camera which, say Gestalten, the publishers of Nostalgia, “exposed one oblong glass plate three times in rapid succession through the three filters”.
“For formal presentations,” they continue, “the negative plate was placed in a triple lens lantern so the three exposures could be superimposed to form a full colour image on a screen. Due to the brief time lapse between the fixation of the three frames on the plate, the perspective is slightly distorted to varying degrees on the final image and results in random shimmers of colour.”