Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky – the father of color photography

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky - the father of the color photography

156 years ago, on August 30, 1863, in the Murom city was born the Russian photographer, chemist, inventor, publicist, and teacher Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. Throughout his life, he managed to change the perspective on photography, art, and science.

Taking into account the places, where Prokudin-Gorsky got his education – it is clear that from the young age, he was interested in humanitarian and technical sciences. From 1886 to 1888, he was listening to the natural sciences lectures in the Saint Petersburg State University. Later, he also spent two years in the Imperial Military Medical Academy (did not graduate) and also studied the pictorial art in the Imperial Academy of Arts.

These scientific and artistic preferences of his study years show that Prokudin-Gorsky had several contrasting areas of interests that later helped him to become a pioneer in the creation of color photography.

In 1902, he traveled to Germany to study color sensitization and three-color photography with the professor Adolf Miethe. Prokudin-Gorsky took the knowledge and after return to Russia, he created a more advanced version of the sensibilization – a device that now was sensitive to the whole specter of colors. Thanks to the development of this device and the ideas of Mithe, Prokudin-Gorsky managed to create a collection of the color photographs of the people and landscapes of the Russian Empire. His photographs are now owned by the U.S. Library of Congress.

In his creations, Prokudin-Gorsky was a strong proponent of the realism and that is not a surprising fact, considering that he was the one, who created the technology to create as real photographs, as possible. In the journal, dedicated to the 100 years of the Russian photographic society, there was an article about the rivalry between Prokudin-Gorsky and photographer-impressionist Nikolay Petrov. In a short-lived conflict between them, answering to the letter of Petrov to the editor of the journal Photographer-amateur, Prokudin-Gorsky announced that he is not going to publish blurry splashes without a clear plot in the magazine.

Despite this story, the biographer of Prokudin-Gorsky, Svetlana Garanina often called her protagonist an artist of photography. In spite of all the rejections of the abstraction in photography, calling it the art of a protocol’s character, there are still some elements of artistry featured in his works – playing with the composition and color gamma.

His journey through the Russian Empire from 1909 till 1916 was particularly sponsored by the Russian Tsar Nicholas II after the emperor was impressed by the presented photographs in a private audience with Prokudin-Gorsky. However, the most famous of his works were made in May of 1908, when he took a color portrait of the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, sitting on the chair. By the memories of the photographer is known that Tolstoy was very interested in modern technologies and the predecessor of the science art was the right person to tell him more about it.

Here are some of the works of Prokudin-Gorsky. Subscribe to our Instagram account for more beautiful historical pictures

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