While many people believe that color photography is a relatively new invention, due to the fact that it was not very common until the 1960s and 70s. You may be surprised to find out that high-quality original color photos exist from over 100 years ago!
The man you see in the original color photo above is Russian chemist Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. Prokudin-Gorsky was a pioneer in techniques that would produce highly detailed color photos in the early 1900s. While not the inventor, he developed and mastered the process that was first suggested and demonstrated by people as early as the 1850s.
The simple way to explain the process is that three black and white photographs are taken through a red filter, a blue filter, and a green filter, and when the three photos are projected together, a color image is formed. This is a very simplified explanation but it gives you a small idea as to how Prokudin-Gorsky could take color photos over 100 years ago!
At the request of the Emperor of the Russian Empire, Nicholas II, from 1909 to 1915, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky traveled across the Russian Empire on a railroad car documenting the regions he passed through by producing original color photos.
Below you can get a unique insight into the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and its subsequent collapse during the Russian Revolution. Here is a selection of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky’s rare color photos taken throughout the 1910s and covering a range of subjects.
The People of the Russian Empire
Buildings of the Russian Empire
More original color photos by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky of the Russian Empire from 1909-1915 can be found in the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection on the Library of Congress website.