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Color photographs from early 1900s Russia
June 18, 2009 2:53 PM   Subscribe

"Exactly one hundred years ago a Russian photographer, began a remarkable project. With the blessing - and funding - of the Tsar, Nicholas II, he embarked on an extraordinary journey to capture the essence of Russia in full color photographs."

More photos from the collection.

Previously. Via Neatorama.
posted by mudpuppie (47 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit. That's fucking crazy. (Especially how he actually took the photos.)
posted by chunking express at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2009


This is incredible. Thanks so much for posting.
posted by alona at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2009


My tsarist empire for a hi res version of these images.
posted by NoMich at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2009


fantastic! thank you for posting. i love these photos.
posted by molecicco at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2009


This is astonishing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2009


Is it okay to like these photographs, or will we be hated on because they were funded by the Tsar, like those Eggs we recently discussed?
posted by hippybear at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2009


chunking express: Especially how he actually took the photos.)

Seconded. Prokudin-Gorsky really created some amazing images, but the amount of work it must have taken is remarkable.

FYI, don't skip the "More photos from the collection" link. The number of images that survived is remarkable. Its a real treasure trove.

Seriously, Best of the Net.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2009


As the Egg Man, I hope this post is praised for being frickin' amazing.

Best of the Web.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2009


In Pre-Soviet Russia, photographer takes picture of you.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wait... I thought Joe Beese was the Walrus.
posted by hippybear at 3:07 PM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Unbelievable. Thanks so much. A colour photo of Tolstoy, even!
posted by No Robots at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2009


As someone who was born into a world with colour photography, black and white photos, even of my parents and my brothers' early childhood, always looked distant and unrelatable to me. I can't explain in words the feeling I get looking at these pictures. Suddenly it feels so close, so real, as if these people really existed and had lives and woke up and saw the sun and sat on the grass and cried and ate food, and are more than just stories. Agh, amazing.
posted by alona at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, thats excellent. To have colur photographs from 100 years ago is amazing.
posted by Sargas at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


My tsarist empire for a hi res version of these images.

Here you go. High resolution .TIFFs courtesy of the Library of Congress.

You can make arrangements to hand over your tsarist empire later.
posted by fings at 3:15 PM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


How do I explain to the children "Daddy has important work to do!" when they can clearly see I'm just looking at pictures? Please advise.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2009


I think fings meant to paste this link to the Library of Congress. (Thanks, fings.)
posted by mudpuppie at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2009


Beautiful. I knew I'd seen these here before (the AMAZING blue robe of the Emir of Bukhara is a dead giveaway) but since that was back in 2001 and this is a much easier to browse collection I'm glad to see them again!
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on June 18, 2009


Oh, that's the previously link! And here I thought my memory was just awesome. Oh well.

The emir's blue robe is still awesome, though. I wish I could get me one of those. I would wear it to the grocery store and the movies and everyone would love me.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'm sure I had seen these before. Still, no complaints here.
posted by fire&wings at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2009


Actually, I meant to post this link to the Library of Congress, but close enough!
posted by fings at 3:38 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nicholas II and his family were avid photographers themselves, and there are several books that include their own family snapshots. I'm not surprised that Nicholas supported this project.
posted by padraigin at 4:24 PM on June 18, 2009


several times previously these been posted (and I think there are more that I didn't link there), but they remain fantastically cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:31 PM on June 18, 2009


This one

I think those are plates of berries.
posted by bendybendy at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2009


Download the originals and DIY (Wayback Machine cache) with Photoshop!
posted by squalor at 4:48 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


My word... these are an amazing source! And so beautiful! The technique he used to get these is unreal in the amount of effort, but the result!
posted by strixus at 4:51 PM on June 18, 2009


Wow! Thanks for posting this.
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on June 18, 2009


These are spectacular. Thank you!
posted by chihiro at 4:58 PM on June 18, 2009


I always found the compositions interesting, they're straight outta 19th century narrative paintings. No close-ups, no off-center cropping, n no dramatic action, it's not even "classical" cause he doesn't do the barok-y "the world is a stage!" kinda lighting. He's trying to use the camera to be like a painter ...from his particular place and time. Alot of that could have been who he was working for the whole point of the project, of course, you're not gonna do new or fun stuff for the Tsar's This Is Russia exposition. However, I always thought that was interesting, you could have done anything with the camera, but he chose to re-crate the dominant style of painting. So, yah.
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on June 18, 2009


I should mention I am on pain pills to explain that previous comment.

(oh god! they do nothing!)
posted by The Whelk at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2009


I remember seeing these many years ago but don't remember them as being quite this vivid. Is it the monitor? No matter. Fascinating, slightly unnerving, and I have to wonder if there are any made outside of Russia. There's a whole pre-war world I'm pretty much dying to see in Living Color.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:24 PM on June 18, 2009


I always found the compositions interesting, they're straight outta 19th century narrative paintings. No close-ups, no off-center cropping, n no dramatic action, it's not even "classical" cause he doesn't do the barok-y "the world is a stage!" kinda lighting. He's trying to use the camera to be like a painter ...from his particular place and time.

Uh, you realize that old cameras required you to stand perfectly still for a while in order to capture an image. And this guy had to change filters in the middle. Of course they're staged like paintings.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 PM on June 18, 2009


I know the technical limitations, but you still could break out of the David-Painting tradition using a stationary camera people had to sit awkwardly still for. What I meant was the photographs are from a complete painting mindset, and a very particular one. Other photographers at the time where doing some neat stuff with composition and lighting, but this is all technical and all trying to re-create a painting style. I find that frisson between art and technology (Skiamorphs and the like) very interesting. He had this brand new *thing* but worked so hard to make it mimic an existing thing.
posted by The Whelk at 5:49 PM on June 18, 2009


His goal was to educate Russian schoolchildren and to create a record of deserving of the sheer enormity and diversity of Russia and its then empire

Not to be an evil dirty baby-crushing prescriptivist or anything, but "enormity" doesn't mean that. Or rather, it didn't mean that back when words meant specific things and not whatever the present writer means by them, which seems to be the current non-elitist non-freedom-hating oh all right I'll stop ranting
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:14 PM on June 18, 2009


If you want to play in photoshop and have RGB separations you want to combine 'additively' the Linear Dodge (add) or Screen blend modes will both work for that.

If you have CMY separations you want to combine 'subtractively' the Multiply blend mode is best for that.

Additive Color vs Subtractive Color
posted by jfrancis at 6:38 PM on June 18, 2009


The time-traveling bulked-up love child of Samuel L. Jackson and John Torturro.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:38 PM on June 18, 2009


The process is not unlike 3-strip Technicolor
posted by jfrancis at 6:43 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw this about 15 years ago at a museum. It awed me then and it awes me now, how the photos were taken, and the quality of them. It WAS like stepping into a time machine.
posted by Danf at 7:32 PM on June 18, 2009


Mudpuppie, Вы являетесь полностью удивительными. Больше чем Вы знают.
posted by Danf at 7:35 PM on June 18, 2009


Is there any amount of money I can pay for a book of these things?
posted by Nonce at 8:50 PM on June 18, 2009


Also, I think this is the first time I've ever actually felt that the past was in color. Intellectually I knew it. But not where it counted.
posted by Nonce at 8:52 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm speechless. Thank you so much.
posted by keijo at 1:02 AM on June 19, 2009


A friend has access to a huge inkjet printer, and printing those at 2 by 3 foot sizes makes them even more awesome.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:45 AM on June 19, 2009


I logged in on my way out the door just to favourite this. Top notch!
posted by sunshinesky at 3:29 AM on June 19, 2009


This could be one of the greatest posts ever on MeFi. Unfreakin believable. I just finished "Young Stalin" so to stumble on this after being immersed in early 20th Century Georgia and St. Petersburg is awesome.
posted by spicynuts at 6:55 AM on June 19, 2009


Nonce: Photographs for the Tsar, published in 1980. 200-odd pages containing 120 color photographs and 120 black-and-white. It's a beautiful book.

Also worth noting is the Library of Congress website Meeting of the Frontiers, which contains a bunch more nifty stuff from the Library's Prokudin-Gorsky collection.
posted by posadnitsa at 3:41 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks posadnitsa.
posted by Nonce at 12:09 AM on June 21, 2009


Stunning doesn't even begin to cover it. I've been going through that Library of Congress collection for the past five hours straight ~ there are walls in my mind (seperating myself from the past and its people) that these photographs have just crumbled.

A slideshow rotation of my favourite 600-or-so photographs is now my screensaver, and I am positive that I will take unending fascination and delight in sitting back and watching it run its course, accompanied by different music. Thanks, mudpuppie!
posted by Rumpled at 6:39 AM on June 21, 2009


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