Monday, June 25, 2007


This is the coolest thing. Pardon me while I totally geek out.

This is a color image of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin. Founded around 1330, the Trinity-Ipat'ev Monastery in the old Russian Volga River city of Kostroma, northeast of Moscow, contained within its walls several old churches, including the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin shown here. Originally constructed in the sixteenth century, the church was demolished in the early Soviet period. This photograph may be the only color photograph ever taken of the church.

So, how'd they get a color photo of a church destroyed so long ago? Glad you asked.

It's called "Digichromatography." Between 1909 and 1912, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, with support from Tsar Nicholas II, completed a very ambitious survey of 11 regions of Russia. He took pictures with a camera of his own design (since lost) that recorded the images on glass plates. Our Library of Congress bought the plates from his heirs in 1948. The process of digichromatography enabled the creation of brilliant color images from these plates. At the time, he projected the images from the glass plates through red, blue and green filters to show a color image. How cool is that? He was hosting color slide shows in the very early 1900s.

He studied as a chemist, and devoted himself to the advancement of photography. His own original research yielded patents for producing color film slides and for projecting color motion pictures. The tours of Russia he and his team completed were done in a specially outfitted railroad car. To keep his images straight, he created albums to serve as photographic records of his trips across the Russian Empire. Each album is composed of contact prints--created from his glass plate negatives--which were mounted in the order in which he traveled.

Anyway, I know all this 'cause the Library of Congress is hosting an exhibition. (And I stole heavily from their website for my information.) So go here and check out the cool picts!


Suldog said...

For some idiotic reason, I'm always surprised when I see a color image from any time before 1960 or so. I have to actually remind myself that the world wasn't really black and white then.

endangered coffee said...

Gotta admit, pretty cool stuff.