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Thread: 100 year old color Russian photographs

  1. #1

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    100 year old color Russian photographs

    This photographer may have been a relative of Uncle Earl.
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/201...stPop_Emailed1

  2. #2
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    I really would like to know what camera was used to make those photos. Three exposures in rapid succession, with a different filter for each. I had seen a photo of WWI Russian troops made with this camera, and I was really impressed.

    I imagine that the film must have been in a rotating cassette, and the filters were synced to it.

  3. #3
    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    Fantastic! I had no idea that colour was so advanced in those days. Notice how you get the colour fringing where there's motion (like the river) and the 3 colours couldn't register. Thanks for the post.
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

  4. #4
    Remember to take out the trash
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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    Thanks for the link, that has some new photos I haven't seen!

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian C. Miller View Post
    I really would like to know what camera was used to make those photos. Three exposures in rapid succession, with a different filter for each. I had seen a photo of WWI Russian troops made with this camera, and I was really impressed.

    I imagine that the film must have been in a rotating cassette, and the filters were synced to it.
    There's some rudimentary info in the wikipedia entry. He exposed three B&W frames with red, green and blue filters. I think he used the same camera for them so the models had to be very still probably for a minute or two. For exhibition he used three separate projectors with the same filters, and had to have them in register on the screen - not unlike early home movie projectors with separate RGB lenses. The info I've been able to find doesn't tell how he made the color postcards which apparently were very popular, though.

    The photos are gorgeous at web resolution, I'm dying to see these in person - hopefully there will be an exhibition nearby some day.

    I asked on LL forums if anyone knows if there's a technical reason he used RGB, or whether it's a coincidence that he used RGB and we still use it, or just a legacy thing. Didn't get answers to that.

  5. #5

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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    Prokudin-Gorskii used a camera that took three successive exposures vertically on one long plate. The camera used gravity to move the plate. The plate was inserted via the top of the camera. After the first exposure through the first filter, the plate dropped down into the middle position and the second exposure was taken through the second filter. The plate then dropped into position for the final exposure with the third filter. I believe the filter was changed automatically, but I don't remember how this was accomplished. Attached is a picture of one of the three-exposure plates in the Library of Congress collection.


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    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 60plate.jpg  

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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    Amazing! I thought from your title this would link to some Autochromes, which I love. But they have their own look and the colors are somewhat unreal, which is part of their attraction. But I'd forgotten there was another process to shoot color. I love the look of these shots. Not only are they beautiful, unreal color, but the plates are technically very, very good. I'm sure we've all seen the usual historic black and white shots, where subjects are grainy, blurry, poor exposures. Everything looks so "old" and primative. These shots catapult you back to that time, as if it were yesterday.

  7. #7

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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    A very informative article on Prokudin-Gorskii can be found on this web page:

    http://www.ica.org/en/node/30480

    Download the file "Adamson&Zinkham.pdf" from this page.

    One interesting fact, from the "Postscript" paragraph, states that a color laboratory founded by Prokudin-Gorskii's grandson Dmitri Swetchine, Central Color, was still in business in Paris in 2002 when the article was written.



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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    Fascinating images! Amazing quality for their day.

  9. #9
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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    I knew about these, but it's always nice to see them again. What a strange feeling, to see that the world was coloured even a century ago. We tend to imagine the past in black and white.
    I wonder how he made those self-portraits (unless somebody else operated the camera, in which case they're not exactly self-portraits).

  10. #10
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: 100 year old color Russian photographs

    I think the camera had to have a clockwork mechanism for its operation. It must have regulated the shutter action and rotated the filters. Too bad it is probably lost for good. But since so many strange things have been found hidden away, who knows?

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