Upper Volga Lock


In May 1910, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed in the Ostashkov area of Tver’ Province, including the lake region on the upper reaches of the Volga River. Among the objects photographed was the Upper Volga Dam, first built in wood in 1843 five kilometers below the exit of the Volga from Lake Volgo. The dam was built to create a reservoir unifying Lakes Sterzh, Vselug, Peno and Volgo at the Volga’s origins, thus providing a supply of water to maintain transport on the Vyshny Volochek waterway during the summer and fall. This view eastward from the west side of the dam shows the large wooden wheels that allowed the sluice gates to be raised and lowered. With the onset of frost in October, the sluices were opened to lower the water level before winter ice formation. In the distance is a wooden house for maintenance personnel. Prokudin-Gorskii photographed such technical details as part of the work for his primary patron, the Ministry of Transportation. 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

Верхневолжский бейшлот

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: January 13, 2017