(Photographs by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky)
The body of work that Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky came to my attention this past weekend. His photographs of pre-revolutionary Russia captures a time that would capture the beauty of this vast land shared by its different peoples from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. The stunningly beautiful portraits are of an ever-changing country and its people.
The three-filtre method he learned from Adolf Miethe has brought to life the vibrant colours of tapestries, landscapes and lives of people before the first world war and before the Russian Revolution in 1917. As a person who enjoys photography and the particularities of the different processes, it is fascinating how the colours translate on the computer screen; they are rich and unexpectedly moving like a beautiful impressionist canvas at the Musée d’Orsay. Whether Prokudin-Gorsky is an impressionist or a realist is another discussion. (I tend to be emotional and overly invested when it comes to photography.) It is not a surprise that upon seeing his photographs that czar Nicholas II commissioned him to explore and photograph Russia complete with his own train car equipped with its own dark room.
Seeing these colour photographs is a humbling experience because a lot of times, one assumes that the black and white images that are in museums and galleries are indicative of realities they captured. There were lost colours such as the hues of blue lakes and skies and the sun-kissed cheeks of farmers on a picnic after a day’s work. With new perceptions of reality through technology and other advancements, we forget that we behold the same blue sky and the same hunter green pines on the horizon during a road trip. Just looking away from the computer or smartphone screen for thirty seconds would suffice to take in the view.