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Peter Barfuss 𒀱 @bofh453
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Fun fact: this image was taken in 1911.
This is from the Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii (Прокудин-Горский) collection. Prokudin-Gorskii was a Russian chemist (he studied under Mendeleev!) who was particularly interested in dyes & photography. (1/n)
In fact he was among the first to study photochemistry in the context of photography, having taken a trip to Germany in 1902 to study under Adolf Miethe in the topic of coloured photosensitization & photography. His goal, ultimately, being that of colour photography.
Mind you, this is 1902; Kodachrome K14 won't come out for another 33 years, nobody has any idea how to make negative film for capturing all 3 colours simultaneously.

So he sidestepped that problem: why not just take 3 images, thru filters, on film for each primary colour?
Then you'd recombine them, at the time, thru a projector that would shine light thru all 3 negatives, projecting a colour portrait onto a wall. Here's an example, this is Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, taken in 1911. The 3 images on the right are the R,G,B channels.
By the way, the year 1911 comes up a lot here. In fact it's actually a period between 1909 & 1912... what happened was after realizing this process, Prokudin-Gorskii had a very ambitious idea in 1905: document the Russian empire in photograph form. Colour photograph form.
Eventually, in 1909 he convinced Tsar Nikolai II to do this, and got a special darkroom train carriage as well as a permit to get the Russian bureaucracy to stay out of his way & to let him into restricted areas of the empire.
In total, it's estimated he took ~3500 negatives during his tour between 1909 & 1915 (not 1912 as above, that was a typo). Here are a few:

(L: Staraya Ladoga Church, R: Ural Railway Administration Building in Perm).
Some of the structures still exist today. Here's an example, a railway truss bridge over the Kama river: left is the Prokudin-Gorskii photograph, right is a photograph taken in 2010. Note that a second bridge has been built alongside it, but the original still is standing.
Note that other than the paint fading in recent years, the images look *amazingly* similar: not bad for 1911!
Now here's where it gets really neat: we *still have* the negatives, they've been imaged extremely well, and we now have computers and complicated recolourization algorithms.
So we can, in fact, generate *much* better images than was *possible* in Prokudin-Gorskii's time, using his photographs.

Remember that image of Mohammed Alim Khan above, & how the colours didn't *quite* overlap in places, & there was visible banding at the top & bottom? Well:
You'll note that most of that is now gone! There's still *some* banding at the top, but otherwise, most of the artifacting in the native channel combination image are now *completely gone* in the algorithmically recolourized version.
(By the way, his collection, being so extensive, so high-quality, & entirely in the public domain, is as a result the standard test collection for image recolourization algorithms!)
To close, here's first some more images:
- Suzdal along the Kamenka river, 1912
- General view of Perm, 1910
- Italian woman outside villa, year unknown (possibly an early picture?)
- Jewish children with teacher in Samarkand, 1912(?)
Finally, some links:

The above are all from the Library of Congress collection:…

One flickr album with Alex Gridenko's reconstructions:… (& info:
& lastly, the full collection indexed by location:… (also has raws, some of which purportedly have yet to be digitally recolourized yet).
One image I really like that I haven't seen a proper recolourization of is this one: these are mosaics on the Shakh-i Zindeh walls in the mausoleum of the mosque Tuman-Aka in Samarkand. Note how amazingly beautiful the azurite is & how true-to-colour the picture is!
A thought that just struck me: the recolourization process here is ~identical to how one constructs full-colour Saturn images from @CassiniSaturn Imaging SubSystem raw images: three images, each a separate colour channel thru a filter, taken a very short time after each other.
Twitter is *astoundingly* bad at threading, that was supposed to be an aside w/the thread continuing from the parent but instead twitter treats this as the primary endpoint. Thread actually continues here:
Here's one from 1904!!!…
Smog from a foundry makes the technique very visible due to inevitable chromatic aberration:…
Supplementary thread to this one:
Some particularly old images here:

And a supplementary thread I *highly* recommend reading here:
I also extremely strongly recommend reading this blog post from a photographer going into even more detail about early colour photography, which is a far more extensive process than has been described here:
I also extremely strongly recommend reading this blog post from a photographer going into even more detail about early colour photography, which is a far more extensive process than has been described here:
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