Photographic Studies in Russian Industry By Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii 1905-1915.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was born in Murom, Russia, in 1863, educated as a chemist, his passion was photography. His early studies of the science of photography took him to St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Paris. His own studies on the subject yielding several patents in the production of colour film and in the projecting of moving colour film.
Between 1905 and working until after the start of the first world war in 1915, Prokudin-Gorskii enacted a plan to use the recent technological advancements that had been made in colour photography to document the Russian Empire and its people, with the hopes of creating an educational record of the era.
This was an ambitious project as the Russian empire, under Tsar Nicholas II, was one of the largest in history, spanning eleven different times zones, and stretching approximately 7,000 miles from its western to its eastern borders. Luckily Tsar Nicholas II supported his ambitious project and provided passes and transportation that enabled Prokudin-Gorskii unrivaled access across the empire.
The process that Prokudin-Gorskii perfected, used a camera that took a series of monochromatic pictures in rapid sequence, each through a different coloured filter. By projecting all three monochrome pictures on top of each other, and using correctly coloured light, it was possible to reconstruct the original colour scene.
In Prokudin-Gorskii time, the pictures were projected for viewing using a magic lantern. However, with the advent of digital processing of film negatives, true copies of the pictures can be produced. The pictures produced, while not exactly tinted in the same colours as would be seen from a lantern projection or from prints made at the time, do seem to have a soft diffuse quality about them that adds a certain depth and warmth to the images.
For this introductory selection of images, i have chosen a representative sample across all the photographic albums produced by Prokudin-Gorskii. I concentrated on the industrial pictures, as the soft light produced by Gorskii's photographic method seems to act as a balance to the harshness of the industrial scenes, producing strong yet ethereal images.

The Cotton Industry:

Cotton mill interior, probably in Tashkent, 1905-15

General Industry:

Sacks stacked in storage room, pulley system machinery mounted along wall 1905-15

The steam room for the treatment of bamboo, taken at Chakva. Part of the "Views in the Caucasus and Black Sea area, Russian Empire." series.

Heavy Industry:

Blast furnaces at the Satkinskii factory 1910. Taken from "Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire" series.

Molding shop at the Kasli plant 1910. Taken from "Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire"

Tea Production:

Weighing section at the Chakva Tea Factory, taken sometime between 1905-15.

Chakva Tea Factory, Tubs and baskets with fragrant tea.

Tea factory in Chakva. Sorting section.

Sword Making:

Joining shop for the production of scabbards at the Zlatoust plant 1910.

Weapons cabinet in the Arsenal Museum of the Zlatoust plant 1910. Taken from "Views in the Ural Mountains, survey of industrial area, Russian Empire"

Power Production:

Machine department on the Oka River 1912, "Views along the Oka River and Suzdal, Russian Empire"

Alternators, in the power generating hall of an hydroelectric station in Iolotan on the Murghab River 1905-15.

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Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

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