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The Pioneering Photography of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky

22. September 2009 by Gregg 0 Comments

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was born into Russian nobility in the mid-1800s. His family was notable for its long history serving in the military of the Russian Empire. Sergey attended the Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology, focusing on chemistry and quickly became interested in the growing technology of Photography.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky pioneered the use of three-colored filtered for photographs, the combination of which yielded some of the first color photography in existence. He held several patents on the technology which extended to early techniques for producing and displaying color motion pictures.


In the early 1900s, Prokudin-Gorsky was named royal Photographer by Tsar Nicholas II and travelled around the Russian Empire photographing various groups, individuals and aspects of Russian life with the intention of showing the World the beauty of Russia. He spent just over half a decade travelling and photographing his subjects and conducting lectures on his photographic techniques as well as Russian culture.


After the Russian Revolution, he was made a professor under the new regime, but chose to leave the country with his family in 1918. They settled in Paris among a community of Russian immigrants and opened a photography studio. Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky died in 1944 and was buried in a Russian Orthodox Cemetary in Île-de-France.

In 2004, 60 years after his death, the US Library of Congress entered into a partnership with computer scientists and created composite digital images out of the negatives Prokudin-Gorsky had amassed after purchasing them from his surviving heirs. An exhibition “The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated” has taken place both in the United States and in Russia.