Russian Empire ca 1910

An Armenian woman in national costume poses for Prokudin-Gorskii on a hillside near Artvin (in present day Turkey), circa 1910. 
One of my favourite blogs is the photography blog on called The Big Picture.  In the vein of 'a picture tells a thousand words', it tells the story of current events through incredibly evocative photographs.  Their images of the flooding in Pakistan, for example, brought home the tragedy more than even television news reports could do.  Yesterday's post was equally stunning - it literally made me gasp.  In light of the devastating fires in Russia, the blog posted some photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944).  Prokudin-Gorskii was commissioned by the Tsar to document the Russian Empire in pictures, using his patented colour process.  Between the years of 1909 and 1912, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled the Empire and captured not only the places and people, but, I think, the essence of the subject and the environment.  
General view of the Nikolaevskii Cathedral from southwest in Mozhaisk in 1911.
His special colour process involved him taking three consecutive photos of his subject, each using a different colour filter of red, blue and green.  He then compiled the three by projecting them using coloured lanterns to recreate the original colour.  The effect, for me, is jaw-dropping.  The colour gives these images such a contemporary feel, it is like stepping directly into the past.  I will let the rest of the photos speak for themselves, but definitely go check out the rest and the whole post at The Big Picture.  (All captions are from their blog.)
Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm (Khiva, now a part of modern Uzbekistan), full-length portrait, seated outdoors, ca. 1910.
A man and woman pose in Dagestan, ca. 1910. 
Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara, seated holding a sword in Bukhara, (present-day Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. 
A boy leans on a wooden gatepost in 1910. 
A group of Jewish children with a teacher in Samarkand, (in modern Uzbekistan), ca. 1910.
Pinkhus Karlinskii, eighty-four years old with sixty-six years of service. Supervisor of Chernigov floodgate, part of the Mariinskii Canal system. Photo taken in 1909.
Nomadic Kirghiz on the Golodnaia Steppe in present-day Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, ca. 1910.
View of Tiflis (Tblisi), Georgia from the grounds of Saint David Church, ca. 1910. 
A group of women in Dagestan, ca. 1910.


  1. Oh, Lia, those photographs of the Pakistani people were gut wrenching. Imagine living in a mud house in torrential rains; we can't. wow!

  2. Wonderful pictures providing an insight in to the Great Games Era. Central Asia and Uzbekistan were Ruled by The Russians and they brought many good things to the Society. Most Important was Education and Public Utilities. But now what the poor Citizens are getting? Jailing, Torture, misery and their Leaders are getting Rich. In uzbekistan Security agencies have gone mad and detaining thousands of Innocents daily. Now even they do not differentiate between the foreigners and Locals. Of Friends be afraid of those monsters in human bodies and wearing the uniforms. read my story:

  3. These photos are amazing. They truly look like modern photographs. I had to read your post twice because I was so sure that they couldn't have been taken so long ago.


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