Group of Laborers Standing, Posed, in Front of a Chain-Link Fence, with Sacks Piled behind Fence


This photograph shows local workers at a railroad siding for the Murgab estate near the town of Bayramaly (present-day Turkmenistan). The Murgab Oasis and the city of Merv (now Mary) were annexed by the Russian Empire in 1884. The oasis takes its name from the Murgab River, which flows from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and forms part of the border between the two countries. Behind the wire fence are sacks of cotton press cake at center and bales of cotton on the right. Beyond the rail freight car are remnants of an ancient fortification wall built of adobe brick. 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. Prokudin-Gorskii was particularly 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 two trips in 1911. Turkestan appealed to him not only for its Islamic architecture but also for the transformation brought by Russian settlement. Large parts of Turkestan were suitable for the raising of cotton, which soon became a priority in the development of Russia’s Central Asian territories.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Группа рабочих стоит перед цепным забором, за забором лежат груды мешков

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

Last updated: September 30, 2016