Probing Gallery with a Pile of Ironstone in Front of It


In 1909 and 1910, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled extensively in the territory around the Ural Mountains, where he photographed railroad installations, factories, urban settings, and natural landscapes. Among the industrial enterprises he documented were the Bakal iron mines, one of the richest sources of ore in the world. The mines were located on the western slope of Mount Irkuskan, part of the southwestern Urals in present-day Chelyabinsk Oblast. In 1910 the Bakal mines—including the Heavy (Tiazhelye) Mines visited by Prokudin-Gorskii—belonged to the Satkinskii Factory located around 30 kilometers to the northeast. Seen here is a pile of quality ironstone. In the background is a “probing gallery” (an exploratory tunnel) from which the ore samples have been taken. Such technical photographs were entirely relevant to the sponsors of Prokudin-Gorskii at the Ministry of Transportation. These photographs not only addressed specific conditions related to mining and railroad construction, but also reflected the geographical diversity of the Russian Empire. 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

Пробная штольня. Перед ней сложен богатый бурый железняк

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