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February 1st, 2004

Early color photography

When you think about World War I-era photographs, you think of black-and-white shots, right? I was surprised recently to learn that a Russian photographer named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii had developed a pretty ingenious method for color photography shortly before WWI that involved taking three black-and-white photos of the same scene, one through a red filter, one through a green filter, and one through a blue filter and then using a special projector, combining the images, which resulted in a remarkably realistic color image.

Read more about it at The Russian Record and see many of his works, works which manage to make places and people from many, many decades ago seem a lot more recent. Looking at an old black-and-white photo always makes the scene feel like long, long ago, very far removed from where you are today. But then you come across a shot like this that feels like it could have been taken yesterday.

Neat stuff. I’d like to see someone use this method today… or maybe just figure out how to take a “regular” color photo and recreate the effect in Photoshop (I’m aware of being able to split colors and such, but I don’t believe that it would result in quite the same “feel”).

Posted in Technology

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday February 2, 2004 -- 4:47:08 pm
Thanks for this Ping. I am a photo buff, but I have never heard of this photographer. I was equally taken with the power of the color images. I agree with your commentary that color does make historic images more "real," and more "recent." Suddenly people of my grandmother's generation (born 1900) don't seem so old or alien. It's sort of creepy, since she would have been 104 now.

FROM: Rob [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday February 5, 2004 -- 1:44:10 pm
Wow. That's awesome. Nice find. I'll have to look at all of them later. It's eerie.

FROM: Dave Cuatt
DATE: Friday September 30, 2005 -- 2:17:54 am
I tried it and got some interesting results. Because I was using scrap graphic arts film, exposures were like 5 min per color.

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