Incorrectly entitled “azaleas,” this photograph shows fall foliage of a maple tree, with birch, pine and fir in the back ground. The granite knoll with a thin cover of grass suggests the terrain to the northwest of Saint Petersburg, where Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed in September and October 1903. The photographer’s caption refers to this as an “etude,” a term Prokudin-Gorskii often used to describe his landscapes, and this etude is similar to other idyllic autumnal views that he took along the Saimaa Kanava (canal) near the village of Juustila, in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland. Opened for transportation in 1856 and renovated in the 20th century, the Saimaa Kanava is 57 kilometers in length and connects Lake Saimaa in Finland with the Gulf of Finland near the city of Vyborg in present-day Leningrad Province. The canal is now open by joint agreement between Russia and Finland. Juustila was the site of villas for Vyborg’s elite, and the Saimaa region was also renowned in Saint Petersburg for the beauty of its landscape. 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: November 1, 2016