New East Digital Archive

Google Doodle delves into the world of Russia’s pioneering colour photographer

30 August 2018

The work of pioneering Russian photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky has been remembered in a new Google Doodle celebrating the artist’s 155th birthday.

Born in 1863, Prokudin-Gorsky travelled the length of the Russian Empire to experiment with a radical new invention: colour photography.

In the decades before Russia was plunged into war and revolution, the former chemist went round the country in a railroad car with a mobile darkroom. Tsar Nicholas II was one the backers of the expedition, funding Prokudin-Gorsky’s mission to capture landscapes, portraits, and stills of everyday life. In total, the photographer created more than 2,600 images, mostly between 1905 and 1915. Prokudin-Gorsky and the tsar had planned to include the photos in school textbooks, but the upheaval of the Russian Revolution intervened. The photographer left Russia and settled in Paris in 1920.

The Doodle shows the method Prokudin-Gorsky used to bring his colour photos to life: he produced black and white images through green, red and blue filters before bringing the negatives together.

Much of his work has been preserved in the US Library of Congress and is available online.