Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky

Borisoglebsk Monastery. Torzhok. 1910 year

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky 19th century photos

It is known that, being a pupil of the 1st Cadet Corps, Mikhail Prokudin-Gorsky at the age of 17 left this educational institution and, without informing either the leadership of the Corps or his relatives, went on foot to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. After a short search, the young man was found already in St. Petersburg under the abbot of the Nikoforovskaya Hermitage in the Olonets Territory, Hieromonk Ferapont, who was in the capital to collect funds for his monastery. The case was immediately transferred to the headquarters of the gendarme corps of the 3rd branch of His Majesty’s own Chancellery.

However, according to the results of the investigation, Hieromonk Ferapont refused to tonsure the young man into monasticism, and Mikhail Nikolaevich was returned to the educational institution with the appropriate edifications, which made the most difficult impression on him, from which he did not recover until his death, which occurred in 1896 in the Irkutsk province.

In 1888, Prokudin-Gorsky left the university and became a student of the Imperial Military Medical Academy, which, however, he also soon left, completely carried away by painting and music, but as a result he did not receive either art or music education.
In May 1890, Sergei Mikhailovich entered the civil service at the Department of Institutions of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna at the Demidov House of Welfare for Workers as its full member, and by 1903 he was promoted to the rank of titular counselor.

Swallow’s Nest. Crimea. 1904 year

The new art of image (which at that time was called differently – light painting, calotype, daguerreotype, photozincography), which combined the artist’s creativity and knowledge of exact scientific disciplines – optics, chemistry and physics, became more and more fashionable.
For example, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and other large cities of the empire, there were already a sufficient number of photo studios and a photo studio, and the names of many photographers were on everyone’s lips.
Sergei Vasilievich Levitsky, the first Russian court photographer, had a daguerreotype establishment called Svetopis on Nevsky Prospect.
Karl Ivanovich Bergamasko – photographer of “His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (Sr.)”, the first Russian “glossy” photographer, had a “Daguerreotype establishment” on Bolshaya Italianskaya Street.
Ivan Grigorievich Nostitz – lieutenant general, photography enthusiast, the first Russian photographer, who was said to be a “professional amateur”.

The village of Yasnaya Polyana. Big pond and village. 1908 year

Anaklet Alexandrovich Pasetti – a leading studio photographer of St. Petersburg, had a photographic studio on Nevsky, 24.
Karl Ivanovich Bulla – one of the first Russian reporters, shot for the magazines “Niva” and “Ogonyok”, had an atelier on Malaya Sadovaya Street in St. Petersburg, the founder of a photographic dynasty.
Maxim Petrovich Dmitriev is a Nizhny Novgorod photographer, one of the first Russian photographers who came out of the studio to the street and began to shoot the genre.
Andrey Osipovich Karelin is a classic of Russian genre photography, shot in Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, a member of the Russian Photographic Society.
Pavel Nikolayevich Barabashov, a leading studio photographer in Moscow, had a photographic studio “Bolshaya Moscow Photography” at the Arbat Gate.
Franz Iosifovich Opitz – the founder of the photographic firm “Tiele and Opitz”, had an atelier at 25 Petrovka Street in Moscow.
Also in those years in Moscow and St. Petersburg were very famous such photo studios as “Wesenberg and Co”, “Renz and Schrader”, “American Photography” by Andrei Eichenwald, “Photography of the Imperial Theaters”, the studio “K.E. von Hahn and Co ”and Alexander Karlovich Yagelsky (the latter specialized in photographing Tsar’s Persons).
In modern terms, it was a new, rapidly developing business, which, understandably, existed according to its own laws.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
General view of the coast and the Kremlin from the bell tower of the Spaso-Yakovlevsky monastery. Rostov the Great.

Thus, an indispensable attribute of a high-quality photographic card was a branded mat (each photo studio and photographer had its own logo), which contained information about the author of the photograph, the location of the studio, the photographer’s awards at exhibitions, as well as the highest gratitude. The medals placed on the forms testified to where and when the exhibitions were held, in which the owner of the photographic institution participated and at which he distinguished himself (the exhibitions were very diverse – world, national, international, polytechnic, manufacturing, agricultural, photographic).
Moreover, there was a unified list of shooting formats (“Mignon”, “Visiting” or “Victoria”, “Stereoscopic”, “Office”, “Promenade”, “Boudoir”, “Imperial”, “Panel”), in which all without exception, photographic institutions of that time.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
Borodino Church (there is a hole on the dome). 1911 year

Obviously, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the photographic business was put on stream, which, in turn, required further improvement of photographic equipment and photographic materials.
It should also be noted that the assortment of photographic devices on the free sale was quite large at that time, and they could be purchased both in a photo studio and in specialized stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the cameras were both from domestic (licensed) and foreign manufacturer. Let’s list the most common models of that time (indicating the frame format):
“All Russia” 6×9 “Hertz-Anschutz” 9×12
“Steigel” – “detective manual clap-camera (folding) from Munich” 9×12
“Fos” – modifications 9×12, 9×18, 13×18
“Mano” 9×12
“Record” 9×12
“Photo-Sport” 13×18
“Excelsior” – “German road camera” 13×18, 18×24 “Cosmopolite” – “French camera” 13×18, 18×24 “Dov” – “Ernemann’s stereoscopic camera” 8×17
And finally – “Kodak” – modifications “Klap-Kodak” and “Cartridge-Kodak” 9×12 and 8×10, respectively.

Chapel in the name of Nicholas the Wonderworker in the village of Vetluga. The city of Zlatoust. 19Prokudin-Gorsky09 year

Without a doubt, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky closely watched what was happening in the photographic field, if only because he spent all his free time from service with a photographic apparatus in his hands, experimented with different models of cameras, optics, photographic materials, projection, and photo printing.
Black-and-white photography, in which Mendeleev was still fascinated by photochemical processes, was certainly interested in Prokudin-Gorsky, but the ambitions of a real discoverer both in the creative and scientific fields more and more turned Sergei Mikhailovich towards color photography, which in those years it was a completely unthinkable and fantastic business.

In 1896, Prokudin-Gorskiy read his first scientific report “On the current state of foundry in Russia” in the Society, but two years later, becoming a member of the photographic department of the IRTS, presented reports “On photographing shooting stars (Star Rains)” and ” Ives’ new device for projection in natural colors (paints) “(Frederick Eugene Ives (1856 – 1937) American photographer-inventor), and also published articles” On printing from negatives.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
A group of schoolchildren by the pond. In Yasnaya Polyana. 1908 year

Having begun to study the effect of light on chloride, bromide and iodide compounds of silver, in 1873 Dr. Vogel discovered the so-called sensitizers – substances that increase the spectral sensitivity of silver compounds of photographic emulsions. The widening of the spectrum of sensitivity (only blue and UV light) inevitably led to panchromatics (the full range of visible light), and therefore to color photography as such.
In 1902 S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky went on an internship at the Higher Technical School in Charlottenburg (a suburb of Berlin) to Professor Adolf Mieta (1862 – 1927) – a student of Dr. Vogel, an employee of one of the world’s oldest optical and photographic companies – Voigtlander.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
Shah Zindeh. Domes. Samarkand. 1911 year

By that time, A. Mite was in the process of designing a camera for color photography, and Sergei Mikhailovich took a direct part in this process.
The device was based on a typical Kodak valve scheme – a lens, a central shutter, a focusing mechanism and a gimbal with a cassette for photographic plates. The fundamental difference between Dr. Mite’s camera and conventional cameras designed for black-and-white shooting was that the end cassette had three windows for sequential production of three color-separated images through filters of primary colors – red, green, blue. After shooting and developing (during printing or projection), the images were combined, and a color picture was obtained.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
General view of Rostov from the bell tower of the All-Saints Church.

This photography technique was based on the theory of color perception, developed back in 1855 by the British physicist and mechanic James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879).

In fact, the same image was shot three times from the same point at the same shutter speed and aperture (although there were options here, we will talk about them below), but with different color filters. Adolph Mite synchronized the release of the camera shutter and automatic step-by-step displacement of the cassette with a 9×24 photo plate along the line of the optical axis of the lens in front of the corresponding light filter built into the camera.
However, due to the inevitable temporal parallax (the time between exposure of the first and second, second and third frames, technically it took from 3 to 4 seconds), such a device could only shoot stationary objects.
It was this technical feature of the Mite-Prokudin-Gorsky camera that allowed Sergei Mikhailovich to shoot only landscapes, architecture, or staged portraits. Especially the latter subsequently gave many reasons for accusing the master of allegedly embellishing the imperial reality, when ruddy peasant girls and smartly dressed townspeople, exotic highlanders and brilliant naval officers froze in front of the camera in epic poses, completely turning reality into a fairy tale and vice versa.
However, the contemporaries of Prokudin-Gorsky did not fully understand how it is possible to achieve such a realistic image in color.
In No. 9 of the magazine “Photographic Review” of 1902, an extremely curious article “Color photography in current photographic practice” by Professor Dr. secrets.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
Fortress wall. Veselukh Tower and Pozdnyakov Tower. Smolensk. 1912 year

Created in the mid-1920s, Prokudin-Gorsky’s Parisian photo studio was named “Yolka” (from the family name of the youngest daughter from Elena Sergeevna’s second marriage). But in the early 30s, Sergei Mikhailovich finally retired from business, and the studio, transferred to his sons Mikhail and Dmitry, began to be called “Brothers Gorskie”.

However, the absence of a special projection technique (as discussed above) has long since translated these words of the old master into the area of, alas, pipe dreams.

In the mid-1930s, thanks to the efforts of Mikhail and Dmitry Prokudin-Gorsky, it was possible to raise a small amount of money to shoot an ethnographic photo project. Initially, it was supposed to photograph historical and artistic monuments of France and its colonies with color, but as a result, they had to limit themselves to the national costumes of French women from the central Loire Valley.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
Exit from the mosque (mausoleum) Gur-Emir. Samarkand.

The transparencies from that shooting have not survived.
In the early summer of 1940, France was occupied.
We do not know how 77-year-old Sergei Mikhailovich reacted to this sad news. Ironically, while fleeing the Bolshevik occupation in his homeland, he ended up in the Nazi occupation in exile. It is only known that the last years of his life S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky spent in the Russian seniors’ house in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois, founded in 1927 with the participation of Princess Vera Kirillovna Meshcherskaya.

Four years after the death of the master, the heirs sold his photographic collection to the Library of Congress, where it lay in oblivion until 2000, after which it was digitized to the world community.

Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
A group of Jewish boys with a teacher. Samarkand. 1911 year
Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
The confluence of the Kostroma river into the Volga. 1910
Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
The rampart near the Borisoglebsk monastery. Torzhok. 1910 year
Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky
The Siab River near Samarkand. Tributary of the Zarafshan. 1911 year
Torzhok. View of the city from the east. The Savior Reobrazhensky Cathedral and the Church of the Entry into Jerusalem in Torzhok from the left bank of the river. Tvertsy.
Tsar’s bell tower. Solovetsky Monastery. 1916 year