Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky digital archive

A fascinating journey into the color world of pre-revolutionary Russia.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944) was a pioneer of color photography in Russia. "Collectionof attractions of the Russian Empire” is one of the world’s firstcollections of color photographs. It was created by S.Prokudin-Gorsky in the period from 1903 to 1916 and included morethan 4000 color photographs.

Since 1948 the surviving archive of S.Prokudin-Gorsky is located in the Library of Congress, which provided public access to a complete digitized database of high-resolutionimages. The Library's website is the original source of scans ofwell-known today triple negative images, as well as the controlalbums of the collection.

In Russia, International Research Project "The Legacy of S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky" consistently carries out studies of life and art of Sergey Mikhailovich. The project was launched in 2008 and since lives with the joint support of enthusiasts fromseveral countries. A unique feature of the project is a collection of restorations and photo comparisons. Restoration as such represents accurate flattening of color layers and retouching of original damages, and photo comparison is made with photographs of the sameplaces shot from the same angles.

It was the Project that we used as a base tocreate the Digital Archive of Prokudin-Gorsky: 1910 original photos, 1730 restorations, 720 photo comparisons.

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Based on the text description, date, location and image analysis, we have identified more than 300 tags – topics that uniformly describe the archive. Based on number of times every tag isused in the description of every photograph, we have built a graph – a logical interconnection of tags.

We wanted to avoid the hierarchy of tags so that none of them would prevail over the other (for example, sorting by geographic principle over the content of images or vice versa). That's why we placed all tags in the cloud, without explicit visualization of the links between them.

Idle mode. Title "S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky digital archive"
The tag's cloud with focus on "Building".
"Building" tag selected and connected to such tags as Monuments, Cities and others.
Inside "Building" tag. Concreting a dam at the Beloomut village.
Concreting a dam at the Beloomut village. Restored by Konstantin and Vladimir Khodakovskie.

When you select a tag, you will see pictures,related to it, and its logical links with other tags. This is how youcan specify the choice. For example, if you choose the "Vologda"tag you'll get all the photos related to Vologda, and if you choosethe associated "Temples" tag – all the photos with the"Vologda" and "Temples" tags, that is, all thetemples in Vologda. The same result can be obtained in reverse order. Here are some examples of unexpected results("Peasants" and "River Fleet": "River Fleet" and "Railways":

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You can zoom in on each photo, select restorationand photo comparison options.

View on a village Kolchedanskoe. Modern Kamensk-Uralsy.
View on a village Kolchedanskoe. Modern Kamensk-Uralsk. Restored by Vyacheslav Ratnikov.
Girl with strawberries. Topornya village, Vologda region.
Girl with strawberries. Topornya village, Vologda region. Restored by Konstantin and Vladimir Khodakovskiy.
View on Miass station from a mountain. Restored by Vyacheslav Ratnikov.

View on Miass station from a mountain. 2014.

The digital archive also includes additional sections: chronology of life, explanation of color photography technology, made by Prokudin-Gorsky himself, information about the original sources o fthe database and about the authors of the restorations and photocomparisons. Please, take a look at comparison of the digital archive and web catalogues of the same collection and detaled UI demo:

The Digital Archives would like to express their gratitude to the International Research Project "The legacy of S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky" for the provided materials and assistanceduring the work on the annex and personally to Vasily Druchin, Vyacheslav Ratnikov and Andrey Novikov.

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