Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. At the time, the empire was a land of striking diversity, with a population of 150 million people, of which only about half were ethnic Russians. Prokudin-Gorskii captured this diversity, documenting traditional costumes and ways of life. This photograph, taken in Artvin (the Black Sea Region, now in Turkey), depicts two Armenian women sitting on a bench in their holiday attire. The women’s clothes echo Armenia’s rich cultural traditions and national character. Elaborately designed dresses were made from silk, satin or velvet, decorated with lace and embroidered with gold or silver thread. White tulle veils were used for the headdress.
Note: Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.
Place: Middle East and North Africa; Turkey; Artvin Province; Artvin
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)