December 23, 2011

Vitebsk. Iconostasis in the Assumption Cathedral

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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.

Spaso-Evfrosinevskii Monastery for Women, Three Versts from the City of Polotsk. View from the South

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. This photograph depicts the Spaso-Evfrosinevskii Monastery for women, with the Krestovozdvizhenski Cathedral, built in 1897, in the center. Located near Polotsk in present-day Belarus, the monastery was founded in the 12th century by the Polotsk princess, Evfrosinia, who served as its mother superior for 45 years and to whom the monastery later was dedicated. Polotsk was taken over by the Polish Commonwealth in 1579, and the monastery came under the control of the Roman Catholic Jesuits. In 1772, after the first partition of Poland, Polotsk passed to the Russian Empire. A few years later, the Spaso-Evfrosinevskii Monastery was given back to the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite the turbulent history of the monastery, some of the 12th-century frescos have been preserved.  Local art historians believe that one of the frescoes depicts Evfrosinia herself.

Mill and Dam on the Polot River

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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.

Harvested Field

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. This photograph shows a harvested field with neatly arranged sheaves of grain in the Polotsk region of present-day Belarus. Although by 1900 Russia had the fifth-largest economy in the world, 80 percent of its people were peasants who lived in villages and farmed with traditional implements such as wooden ploughs. Wheat and oats were the crops most commonly grown in the Polotsk region. Prokudin-Gorskii took the photograph in 1912, as part of his survey of sites where, a century earlier, Russian forces had battled the invading armies of the French Emperor Napoleon.

Armenian Women (Catholics) in Customary Dress. Artvin

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. This photograph, taken in the town of Artvin (the Black Sea region, in present-day Turkey), depicts two Armenian women dressed in everyday clothes. Traditionally, women in this community made their clothes themselves, handing down their skills in embroidery and lace making from mother to daughter. Expected to be modest and virtuous, women wore long dresses with an apron, and covered their head with a kerchief. Artvin is located in a narrow gorge, with the houses vertically attached to the slopes, and is surrounded by fruit orchards and olive groves. In the early 1900s, most of the town’s population were Armenian Catholics.

Pond Feeding Water to the Electric Station's Turbine. Along the Road to the Falls. Gagra

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) was a pioneer in the development of color photography. In the early 1900s, he formulated an ambitious plan to carry out a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. After gaining the support of Tsar Nicholas II, between 1909 and 1915 he completed surveys of 11 regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation. This photograph by Prokudin-Gorskii shows a small hydroelectric station in the town of Gagra, located on the Black Sea coast, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, Gagra was annexed by the Russians in the 19th century and later was developed into a subtropical health resort.