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. Seen here is a buckwheat field in the vicinity of Sim Station, located near the Sim Ironworking Factory. Buckwheat was a major food source in Russia. A horse-drawn wagon stands at the field to the right. Seen in the background are other broad fields, as well as houses in the valley. Beyond the valley are pastures and forested slopes. By focusing on the grain stalks in the foreground, Prokudin-Gorskii limited the lens depth of field, which resulted in a blurring of the background. The stalks themselves are blurred from a breeze that rustled the field during the long exposure time used by 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.

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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