I came across this remarkable series of photographs which had been taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, who had developed a special technique to create color photographs. This was before WWI and show a variety of people and places, all quite remarkable. He had a supremely gifted eye for color and content and the pictures are as fresh today as they must have been back then. The collection is housed at the Library of Congress, who acquired them in 1948 after the death of Prokudin-Gorskii in 1944.
So often the old black and white pictures evoked a sense of mystery about the past, as if it were shrouded in gloom. These pictures, however, are a vital reminder of an era long gone, and the color brings the subjects to life. They are people, not ghosts. Black and white is evocative of time and place, taking us back to an era in which dark colors and shades of grey were the norm in photography. I find it mysterious and depressing, in turns, to view old photographs in monochrome.
In my writing it has helped me to be able to see the landscapes of Russia, the way people dressed, what they ate, what their daily lives were like. There is heroism and a story in every life, and if we can find this in ourselves we can write about it, create characters who can go beyond our own fears and limitations. This set of pictures has really helped me to see the lives of Russians in a different light. It has made them more human and more emotionally accessible. The dour, somber pictures only tell half a tale; here we have a far wider interpretation of life, through a lens of a real artist.
Please take the time to look through them, they are truly remarkable!