On the Road


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 1885–92; now the Ufa-Chelyabinsk line), including the Sim River valley. This lyrical étude (study), entitled “On the Road,” is one of the most frequently-reproduced images by Prokudin-Gorskii. It was taken at a location somewhere between the town of Miniar and Sim Station (in present-day Chelyabinsk Oblast). The shepherd boy seen here, clad in a tattered coat, is illuminated by rich evening light. He leans against the dilapidated gate of a wooden fence enclosing livestock. A rutted track goes through the gate. Beyond is a pile of cleared brush and tree branches. In the background are karst cliffs covered with a conifer forest. On this travels, Prokudin-Gorskii often photographed children, engaging subjects that also illustrated the ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire. This photograph also references the pastoral tradition in art. 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

На дороге

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 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.

Last updated: September 28, 2016