Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky (attributed to) Russian Prison Officers, Guards and Prisoners
Medium Silver print
Photo Date 1905-14 Print Date 1930-50
Dimensions 0 x 0 in. (0 x 0 mm)
Photo Country Russia (Belarus,USSR)
Photographer Country Russia (Belarus,USSR)
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
This print is reproduced on a Russian photography web site dealing with images from this period.
Reportedly these were reprinted directly from KGB file glass negatives of the Pre-Revolutionary period. My source claimed they had purple KGB stamps on the verso of the prints at one point that he took off with tape to get the prints out of Russia. He also claimed that the prints were made in the 1930s. They don't glow under black light but a lot of Russian papers don't glow either. My best guess is that they were made some time between 1930 and 1950. They were purchased in the late 1990s from a Russian antique dealer, who told my source that they were coming directly from the KGB photographic archives, which threw away many things out of the archive when the group changed its name from KGB to FSB. Whatever the case, the images from the group are a stunning picture of the fall of Czarist Russia in wonderful large prints in matte silver.
Likely to be by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky (Russian, August 30 [O.S. August 18] 1863 – September 27, 1944), who was a Russian chemist and photographer. He is best known for his pioneering work in color photography of early 20th-century Russia.
Prokudin-Gorsky became the director of the executive board of Lavrov's metal works near Saint Petersburg and remained so until the October Revolution. He also joined Russia's oldest photographic society, the photography section of the IRTS, presenting papers and lecturing on the science of photography. In 1901, he established a photography studio and laboratory in Saint Petersburg. In 1902, he traveled to Berlin and spent six weeks studying color sensitization and three-color photography with photochemistry professor Adolf Miethe, the most advanced practitioner in Germany at that time. Throughout the years, Prokudin-Gorsky's photographic work, publications and slide shows to other scientists and photographers in Russia, Germany and France earned him praise, and in 1906 he was elected the president of the IRTS photography section and editor of Russia's main photography journal, the Fotograf-Liubitel.
Perhaps Prokudin-Gorsky's best-known work during his lifetime was his color portrait of Leo Tolstoy, which was reproduced in various publications, on postcards, and as larger prints for framing. The fame from this photo and his earlier photos of Russia's nature and monuments earned him invitations to show his work to the Russian Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1908, and to Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1909. The Tsar enjoyed the demonstration, and, with his blessing, Prokudin-Gorsky got the permission and funding to document Russia in color. In the course of ten years, he was to make a collection of 10,000 photos. Prokudin-Gorsky considered the project his life's work and continued his photographic journeys through Russia until after the October Revolution. He was appointed to a new professorship under the new regime, but he left the country in August 1918. He still pursued scientific work in color photography, published papers in English photography journals and, together with his colleague S. O. Maksimovich, obtained patents in Germany, England, France and Italy.
Prokudin-Gorsky set up a photo studio in Paris together with his three adult children, naming it after his fourth child, Elka. In the 1930s, the elderly Prokudin-Gorsky continued with lectures showing his photographs of Russia to young Russians in France, but stopped commercial work and left the studio to his children, who named it Gorsky Frères. He died at Paris on September 27, 1944 a month after the Liberation of Paris.
There is a substantial holding of his work in the U.S. Library of Congress, which purchased the material from Prokudin-Gorsky's heirs in 1948 for about $4,000. The library counted 1902 negatives and 710 album prints without corresponding negatives in the collection.
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