Vintage photos of "The Empire That Was Russia"


Vann Hall says:

Yesterday's Boing Boing entry on panoramic photos of power-plant control rooms reminded me of a Library of Congress site, "The Empire That Was Russia," showcasing the color(!) photography of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, taken in the years immediately preceding WWI.

Prokudin-Gorskii used a camera of his own design that took three photographs in rapid succession on a 9×3" glass plate; the images were shot through a red, green, and blue filter, respectively. After developing, a full-color image could be projected from the plate using a custom, three-part projection system.

In 1948, the LoC bought the existing plates from Prokudin-Gorskii's heirs — seemingly including nearly 1,900 color images, along with an unknown number of black-and-white photos. They've since been digitized and made available on the LoC web site. Most are available in three variations — composite color image, single-frame black-and-white image, and entire (three-frame) negative — and, amazingly, each variant is available as a medium- or high-resolution JPEG ('high-resolution' in this case reflecting typical usage at the time the scan was made: namely 1024 x 826 or thereabouts) or an uncompressed archival TIFF (e.g. 3200 x 2700 pixel for composite image). In addition, selected images are also presented in a "corrected" format that takes into account problems with plate shrinkage and misregistration.

The subject matter varies widely, as Prokudin-Gorskii's intent had been systematically to document the Russian Empire…

The Empire That Was Russia (Thanks, Vann!)