Mountain Ash


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. In the summer of 1910 he traveled along the Samara-Zlatoust Railroad (built in 1885–90; now the Ufa-Chelyabinsk line), subsequently a link in the Trans-Siberian Railway through the southern Urals. On the basis of its location in the contact albums, this photograph was presumably taken in this area, even though the precise location is not identified. At the center of this image is a rowan tree, with full clumps of red berries. The cropped grass around the tree has the atmosphere of an estate park. The rowan tree (riabina) has many lyrical associations with the Urals and Siberia. For example, the rowan tree figures prominently in Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, sections of which are set in the Urals. Prokudin-Gorskii often photographed local flora, both to document the local environment around the sites he visited and to demonstrate the richness of his color process and the range of his photographic technique. 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

Last updated: September 28, 2016