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На жнитве / At the stubble-field by Sergey Prokudin Gorsky - 1909
One of Gorsky’s incredible photographs titled ‘At the stubble-field’ (above) has been my all time favourite. Taken late in the evening more than 100 years ago (1909), this photograph has a mesmerising effect on me. Can’t stop staring at it, can’t stop thinking about it … I completely feel lost in time and space when looking at it hence featuring it again. It is a wonderful record of a golden moment in the evening at a Russian farm … a farmer family finishing off day’s work to go back to home, it’s going to be dark soon, shall I warm up or cook food, peace and quiet, can I lit a cigarette, let’s talk … may be some cattle sounds in the background. Smoke coming out of a chimney, a small peaceful dwelling – what would have been the conversation topic that night? Was there anyone to tell them that there’s a revolution on its way that is going to change their and their generation’s life in years to come!
This brilliant Russian photographer from early 20th century captured something which is more than a picture to me, may be a vivid statement of more than a thousand words?
Below is another picture at the same time, place and people.
At the stubble-field by Sergey Prokudin Gorsky - 1909
Prokudin Gorsky (also Gorskii) left Russia on the brink of the revolution in 1918 and settled in France. Following is some of his other work around documenting Russian way of life back then.
Этюд на речке Кумса / At the river Kumsa - 1915
Остречены / Ostrecheny - 1909
Peasant woman in Perm Province and By yarn. In the Izvedovo village - 1910
Peasant girls - 1909
Столярный цех для выделки ножен / Joiner's shop for dressing sheath and Развесочное отделение (Чаква) / Weighing office (Chakva)
Железнодорожный мост через реку Шую / The railroad bridge over the river Shuya - 1915
I came across Prokudin-Gorsky’s work while doing some research on hand colouring old/antique black and white pictures from the early 20th century. While most of the work is black and white from that time, a number of photographers experimented with three colour photography technique that was developed in the late 19th century.
Prokudin-Gorsky documented the then Russian Empire (1905-1916) with everyday life in his pioneering colour photography. With the Tsar’s blessing, he spent around 10 years photographing Russia and its people in colours.
His process used a camera that took a series of three monochrome pictures in sequence, each through a different coloured filter. By projecting all three monochrome pictures using correctly-coloured light, it was possible to reconstruct the original colour scene. Any stray movement within the camera’s field of view showed up in the prints as multiple “ghosted” images, since the red, green and blue images were taken of the subject at slightly different times.
Mugan (Family settler) Grafovka village - taken somewhere in between 1905 to 1916
Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara - 1911
Prokudin-Gorsky is best known for the only colour portrait of Tolstoy but his colour photography is indeed a timeless snapshot of the past. I felt lost in many of his pictures.