Ural River


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. The original caption for this image states that it is a view of the Ural River, whose upper regions are in the southwestern part of Chelyabinsk Oblast and which flows into the Caspian Sea. However, the identification of this river view is problematic. The Ural River does not reach a width such as the one shown here near any of the regions on the known itinerary of the photographer. In 1912, he traveled along the Kama-Tobol waterway and photographed bridge construction over the Tobol River at Ialutorovsk (present-day Tyumen Oblast). The Tobol could be the river shown here. The height of this view suggests that the photograph was taken from a railroad bridge (or a bridge being built). On the left are high, scoured sandy banks, while the right view shows a broad flood plain. The surface of the river appears mottled, caused by the motion of the water during the three-stage extended exposure Prokudin-Gorskii used in his photography process. 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

Река Урал

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