Color of nation: Imperial Russia on the first color photos of S. Prokudin-Gorsky

Color of nation: Imperial Russia on the first color photos of S. Prokudin-Gorsky

Photographer and chemist, who studied in Mendeleev invented his own method of three-color photography in the early twentieth century and persuaded Nicholas II to make rail tour of the Empire. The result of a long journey became a chronicle of pre-revolutionary Russia, which is now kept in the Library of Congress.


Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was trained as a chemist, but his whole life was devoted to the development of photography.

The result of this research were three camera using red, blue and green filters (the method of three-color photography), best in the world sensitizer for developing images and print transparencies.

The goal of the photographer was to familiarize students with the vast and varied history, culture and modernization of the Empire with his “optical color projections”.

Nicholas II supported the initiative by Prokudin-Gorsky gave him a specially equipped railroad car with a darkroom, and two permissions that provide access to restricted areas and cooperation from the bureaucratic circles of the Empire.

The result of traveling hundreds of images, not knowing about the existence of Lenin.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky left Russia in 1918, after the revolution, and finally settled in Paris, where he died in 1944. Partially surviving collection of his unique images were bought from the heirs in 1948 by the Library of Congress and for a long time remained unknown to the General public.