Photographer to the Tsar

31st March – 13th May 2013

The photographs of Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii were taken during the early years of the 20th century between 1907 and 1915.  They record the Russian Empire on the eve of the first world war and the coming revolution.  The photographer used a three-shot process to take three separate images of his subjects through red, green and blue filters which could then be combined to produce a colour image.  Originally his photographs were used in colour slide presentations using a special projector.  But using today’s digital technology it has become much easier to digitally combine his three-shot images to produce startling full colour photographs in print - images so fresh and clear that they might have been taken yesterday.

Prokudin-Gorskii travelled the length and breadth of the Empire photographing monasteries and churches, towns and factories, workers in the fields and construction workers building railways and dams.  The full cross-section of society is represented in his images from wealthy visitors relaxing at health spas in European Russia, to beggars in the streets of Samarkand. Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918 in the wake of the revolution, bringing much of his collection of photographs with him.  It is now housed in the Library of Congress in Washington DC.  Prokudin-Gorskii’s audiences from the Tsar down were enthralled by his images.  Even today it is hard to believe the early date of these colour images.  And they are all the more poignant with the realisation that within a few years of their being taken, the whole fabric of the society they depicted would change for ever.


Landscape and Architecture




Living and Working


Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii
Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii