Amazing photographs, captured in vivid colour, show life in Russia in the early 1900’s as the country stood on the brink of the First World War - and revolution.
Photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was one of the nation’s leading photographers at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. He was commissioned to capture a photographic record of Russia after the monarch saw his colour portrait of Leo Tolstoy.
The portrait of Tolstoy, taken in 1908, just two years before the author’s death, was Prokudin-Gorsky’s most famous work and became widely popular and was reproduced on postcards, large prints and in various publications
It also caught the eye of the royal family and Prokudin-Gorsky was invited to present his work to Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1909.
The Tsar was so impressed with the photographs he commissioned him to travel across Russia, documenting the nation in colour images. The project was supposed to run for 10 years and see Prokudin-Gorsky collect 10,000 photos.
During 1909-1912, and again in 1915, Prokudin-Gorsky completed surveys of 11 regions, travelling in a railroad car provided by the government which was equipped with a darkroom.
Prokudin-Gorsky, who was born into an aristocratic family in St Petersburg in 1863 and studied chemistry and art, was granted access to areas of Russia that were forbidden to everyday citizens. This allowed him to document Russia’s people and landscapes at the beginning of what would be a dramatic century for the nation.
The photographer was able to capture the scenes in colour, allowing the audience a vivid sense of what life looked like, through using a three-colour technique. This involved taking three separate photographs, one with a red filter, one with a green filter, one with a blue filter.
These monochromatic images would then be projected through filters of those same colours on to a screen and superimposed. When seen through a final filter, they would appear amazingly realistic.