Sunday, May 26, 2013

Early colour photography

Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii
One of the most amazing collections of early colour photographs is held by the Library of Congress, known as the Sergey Prokudin -Gorskii collection.  These early colour photos were not easily viewable because the images were made up of three separate black and white glass plates which had been shot simultaneously with three separate lenses covered with a different coloured filter-  red, green and blue.  The colour image was formed when the plates were combined in a specialist viewer.  It is believed Gorskii's camera was similar to one developed by Miethe in 1903.   Between 1909 and 1915  Gorskii travelled around Russia documenting the country at the time producing both colour and sepia images. He managed to leave the country with around half of his collection that was later bought by the Library of Congress. 

In 2000 the Library started scanning these images and many have now been restored, using the process of digichromatography. 
One of the striking things about these images is the fact they are so real, yet they document a time that we most commonly see in black and white or sepia. 

View of Vitebsk taken in 1912
Copyright Carterworks NZ