Just came across an incredible article at Boston.com, with gorgeous color photos of Russia circa 1910. At first I thought these were colorized photos, but they’re the real deal. The photographer took three photos in quick succession with red, blue, and green filters, then displayed the results by layering colored projectors.
Self-portrait of the photographer Prokudin-Gorskii catching a ride with a handcar captain and his crew.
It’s strangely touching to see such a different time and place and know this is actually what these peoples’ world looked like to them. It’s not a reconstruction or a colorization and it’s not just a sepia old-timey approximation.
Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara. Origin of the phrase “like a boss.”
One thing that startled me was the relative technological advancement displayed in some shots, alongside photos of ragged peasants, nomads, animal-carcass water skins, and tribal chiefs.
A turn-of-the-century technodrome fallen into disrepair, photographed in 1909.
Ok, I’m going to stop joking around for a bit. This is sincerely beautiful and interesting. And while the picture above is actually a chapel, this next one is real live 1910 high-tech. Crazy. Some of the photos struck me as almost steampunk-y. Some were simply beautiful in their foreignness.
Hydroelectric alternators in Iolotan, Turkmenistan, circa 1910. The floor tiles really bring home to me that this is a different time and place.
I keep finding myself trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the people in these photos. Their lives, mindsets, and concerns must have been so very different from mine. I mean, we’re all human, but it’s staggering to really sit and try to get in the mindset of a different age on the other side of the world.
This is Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur, Khan of the Russian protectorate of Khorezm (now part of Usbekistan), circa 1910. He ruled until his death in 1918. That’s right. An Uzbek khan who ruled during World War I.
I cannot for the life of me imagine what’s on his mind. What would it be like to sit with him for an evening and hear his story?
Or these ladies. By the way–isn’t the background incredible? Imagine building and spending your whole life in one of those little stone houses, and never really expecting to go anywhere else.
Or this man, Pinkhus Karlinskii, who worked the Chernigov floodgate on the Marlinskii Canal system starting at age 18. In this 1909 photo he is 84 years old, with 66 years of service.
I grew up in Turkey, and a lot of the people and landscapes in these photos remind me vividly of my time there.
This is in Artvin, part of modern Turkey, circa 1910. Mountains just like those were the background of every road trip of my childhood (except, of course, the ones while we were visiting America.)
This is worth spending some time with. It’s valuable to remember from time to time how big the world is, and how many people there are and have been in it.
See all 34 photos in the original article here.
And many more in the Library of Congress collection here.