Water Pipe. Samarkand


Shown here is a man with a water pipe known as a chillum (a water pipe with multiple extensions). The man is wearing a woolen cap and a brightly striped robe. The pipe is well maintained and has bronze fittings and colors similar to the robe. In the background is the massive lower wall of the Shir Dar Madrasah, the second of three religious schools on Registan Square. Built in 1619–36, it remains one of the most lavishly decorated monuments in Central Asia. This view shows carved white marble blocks set in masonry, above which are receding rows of a “stalactite” cornice line. At the top is a carved Perso-Arabic inscription. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s 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. He was interested in recently acquired territories of the Russian Empire such as Turkestan (present-day Uzbekistan and neighboring states), which he visited on a number of occasions, including a trip from February to April 1911. Turkestan appealed to him not only for its Islamic architecture but also for scenes from everyday life in cities such as Samarkand.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

С чилимом. Самарканд

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 30, 2016