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Turkestan in photographs by S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky

The name of S.M. Prokudin-Gorsky (1863, Vladimir province, Russia-1944, Paris, France), an outstanding Russian engineer, pioneer of color optical photography, is rightfully gaining wide popularity today, when the public interest in timeless historical values ​​increases. During his expeditions to Central Asia in 1907 and 1911, using the method he developed for obtaining color optical photographs, hundreds of photographs were taken, which depict the unique architectural monuments of Samarkand and Bukhara, the life of the inhabitants of this region is presented with great ethnographic accuracy, landscapes are captured, irrigation facilities and much more. These hundred-year-old photographs give contemporaries the opportunity to see the recent history of our region with all possible reliability.

A brief history of the method by which Prokudin-Gorsky worked is as follows.

In 1902, the German photochemist Adolf Mite developed a method for obtaining a color photographic image. From one point, they were removed through three different filters into three negatives, they were developed, fixed, and three transparencies were obtained. The images from the transparencies were projected onto the screen, placing the filter through which the picture was taken in front of each of them.

On December 13, 1902, Prokudin-Gorsky made the first report on a method for making color transparencies using the method of three-color photography. And in January 1905 he acquaints the collection of the photographic department of the IRTS with the results of the work of the three previous years in the Berlin laboratory of Professor Mite and in St. Petersburg. The speaker demonstrates about seventy photographs taken by him in Russia and abroad. The images are different in color and content: views of Dagestan and the Caucasus, autumn views of Finland, winter landscapes, genre paintings, effects of the setting sun, and more.

The professional authority of Prokudin-Gorsky is growing rapidly. It is known from publications in the press that in the winter of 1905, the talented scientist "admires St. Petersburg and Moscow with his color projections." He becomes one of the leading masters of Russian photography.

In a St. Petersburg laboratory, Prokudin-Gorsky managed to synthesize a chemical that makes the bromo-gelatin plate evenly sensitive to all colors. In addition, he achieved an increase in her hypersensitivity, which was extremely important. The well-known landscape photographer I. Bobir wrote that color photography using the Mite method requires a very long exposure, which “in bright sunlight reaches 30-40 minutes, and during pavilion photography of a vase of flowers and still lifes on a bright sunny day it reached 1 hour and 20 minutes. , in the cloud - exceeded 3 hours 20 minutes. " Plates processed according to the Prokudin-Gorsky technology required exposure through each filter for ¼- ¼ - ½ seconds. Such a small exposure opened up impressive possibilities.

Prokudin-Gorsky owns a patent for a "camera for color cinematography", which the scientist received already in exile, in England in 1922. Moreover, both color photography and color cinema in their further development moved along a completely different highway: not through multiple exposure through three "main" light filters (red, green, blue (RGB) - red, green and blue, of which all perceived by a person colors) on three areas of the information receiver, and through simultaneous exposure to different layers of one receiver. Nevertheless, some of the most modern digital studio cameras are built on the principle that Prokudin-Gorsky adhered to. For example, Sigma with matrices from Foveon, where, in fact, its own matrix is ​​used for each color - albeit in one exposure.

In 1906, the photographic department of the Imperial Russian Technical Society (IRTS) elected Prokudin-Gorsky as chairman, and the Russian Photographic Society in Moscow as its honorary member. He becomes the publisher and editor of one of the oldest Russian photographic magazines - Amateur Photographer.

With his photographs, Prokudin-Gorsky interested Nikolai II and, according to the photographer's recollections, he “was given by the highest order a Pullman carriage specially equipped according to my instructions. A wonderful laboratory was set up there, turning from light to dark for the execution of work on the way and in parking lots, as well as a room for the life of my and my companions. This car was at my complete disposal, it was attached to the train indicated by me, uncoupled at the station where I was supposed to work, and at that time was put on the siding. We continued to live in our carriage, made trips for filming, and then again moved on to the next planned path.

The documents issued by the tsarist chancellery provide Prokudin-Gorsky with access to all corners of the Russian Empire, and local administrations must render him every assistance. After the end of each expedition, the photographer processes the footage, shows the work to the Minister of Railways, and then shows the photographs in Tsarskoye Selo.

Prokudin-Gorsky came to Turkestan three times. For the first time (December 1906 - February 1907), as part of the expedition of the Russian Geographical Society, he went to shoot a total eclipse of the Sun in the mountains of Turkestan. The weather prevents him from filming the eclipse, but the failure is more than compensated by the results of the next month's work - Samarkand and its environs are filming all January. The Turkestan cycle of 1907 occupies one of the most worthy places in the collection of the photographer. Demonstrating color projections to members of the Duma and the State Council at a gala evening on May 30, 1908, Prokudin-Gorsky devoted a significant place to Turkestan monuments, especially emphasizing the historical significance of documentary color fixation.

Prokudin-Gorsky made two more trips to the Turkestan territories in the spring and autumn of 1911, the first of which he devoted to shooting Bukhara.

While passing through Tashkent, he made a report in the Tashkent theater "Khiva" about the color photography he had invented. The beginning of the first section was devoted to a detailed explanation of the method of photography in natural colors, and then Professor Prokudin-Gorsky demonstrated the views.

The crown jewel of his photo collection is the portrait of the Bukhara Emir Said Alimkhan. This is one of the most striking and interesting portraits made by the master. It is no coincidence that not a single exhibition of the photographer's works did not pass him by.

Turkestan photographs taken by Prokudin-Gorsky in 1911 indicate that by this time the photographer had apparently reached the pinnacle of his creative potential. In none of his trips around the country did he take pictures of so many people. For the master, not only the age-old Muslim shrines, but also the seller of melons, and the sentry at the palace, and the Bukhara official, and schoolchildren are the attractions of this bright, colorful land.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky died in the Russian House on September 27, 1944 and was buried in the Russian cemetery in Saint-Genevieve-des-Bois.

The photographs of Prokudin-Gorsky confirm the words of the French cultural scientist and art critic Roland Barthes, who opposed the identification of photography with art, seeing in this an encroachment on the unique properties: “Photo is literally an emanation of the person being photographed. From the real body that was there, the radiations separated, which reached me, me who is here: no matter how long this transmission lasted; a photo of a disappeared creature touches me like belated rays of an extinguished star ... ”.


This exposition offers 40 photographs of Prokudin-Gorsky about Turkestan, 3 photographic magazines "Amateur Photographer", the publisher and editor of which was Prokudin-Gorsky, 10 posters "Kodak", which were also presented by Prokudin-Gorsky for the consumer.