Profile picture
Peter Barfuss 𒀱 @bofh453
, 26 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
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: loc.gov/exhibits/empir…

One flickr album with Alex Gridenko's reconstructions: flickr.com/photos/alex_vi… (& info: gridenko.com/pg/)
& lastly, the full collection indexed by location: prokudin-gorsky.org/geocat.php?lan… (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!!! flickr.com/photos/alex_vi…
Smog from a foundry makes the technique very visible due to inevitable chromatic aberration: flickr.com/photos/alex_vi…
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:
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Peter Barfuss 𒀱
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!


This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!