Sunflowers. A Study


From 1909 to 1912, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) made several trips to the territory around the Ural Mountains, where he photographed railroad installations, factories, urban settings, and natural scenes. In the summer of 1910 Prokudin-Gorskii traveled along the Samara-Zlatoust Railway (built in 1885–90; now the Ufa-Chelyabinsk line), through territory in what is now the Republic of Bashkortostan. Seen here is a field of sunflowers near the rail line, probably located to the east of Ufa on the way to the Sim River basin. The field is enclosed by a crude fence constructed of wooden branches. Sunflower seeds were—and remain—an important nutritional source in Russia. Prokudin-Gorskii no doubt photographed the field as an example of the enduring agricultural traditions that coexisted alongside modern developments such as railroads. The bright color contrasts would have also demonstrated the range of his photographic process. The caption for this photograph includes the word étude (study), and this image shows a lyrical side to the work of the photographer. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of his photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Подсолнечники. Этюд

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • 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

Last updated: September 28, 2016