The pre-1914 Russian Empire in colour

Between 1905 and 1914 a Russian aristocrat, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii travelled through the Russian Empire photographing people and places using a colour process he had invented. When he fled to the USA after 1917 the photographs went with him, and were accessioned by the American Library of Congress. Now digitally restored and available online, they offer an unparalleled glimpse of little-known cultures. They will provide essential information to ethnographers trying to track the evolution of textile practices not only in Russia but in Uzbekistan, the Ukraine, and the Arctic regions. They are also visually stunning, and should inspire a new generation of designers. My favourite is the family of Khivan nomads seated in a yurt that glows with different shades of red fabrics.

Khivan nomads in Russian central Asia c1910

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