I want to share a gallery of photographs I found. It's "The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated" that you can find here.
As genealogists, we oooh and ahhh over all sorts of old photographs. Catching a glimpse of the corner of a faded sepia-toned photo stuffed in a crumbling album or along the side wall of a g-grandparent's trunk makes our hearts leap with joy and anticipation. What others view as merely a passing curiosity, we treasure. Websites like Maureen Taylor's The Photo Detective, Brett Payne's The Photo Sleuth, and fM's Shades of The Departed are testament to what holding an old photograph means to all of us. We clutch these tangible links to our ancestors eagerly, scouring the foregrounds and backgrounds of each photo for clues and studying each detail with dogged determination. It's forensics to us, isn't it? We look at the curve of each nose or the shape of a chin and compare it to what we see in our mirrors, trying to find the "like-ness" between those long-ago faces and our own.
We spend so much of our time analyzing all the minutia of our pictoral family histories -- Who is that man? Is this person a relative? When was this photo taken? Where? -- that we might let other details slip past us, especially if they are obvious ones. It was one of those obvious details that the gallery of photographs I found today brought to vivid life for me.
Our ancestors lived in a world full of color.
Is it just me, or when you think of your ancestors alive and well, have you also found yourself imagining them moving through a world of shades of browns and greys? Have I alone spent so much time attaching myself to my forebears through old cabinet cards and CDVs that the imprint of these -- and my associations with the people in them -- are toned the same old-timey brown? Oh, of course I rationally KNOW they lived in color! It IS obvious, isn't it? Even saying this aloud here on my blog I'm laughing at myself. But in the hallways of my mind where I store my memories and thoughts and imaginings of the people I sprang from, the only real human intimacies I've had the privilege of having with them have been in black and white.
That's why I think this collection of Russian photos from the early part of this century is so striking. The colors are brilliant! Young and old alike wearing the traditional garb of their times in breathtaking shades of blue, pink, purple and red. The grass is emerald, the earth a deep cocoa, the water cerulean. The process by which Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii accomplished his photography is fascinating and I urge you to go view the images yourself. He photographed the same scene three times in sequence using a red filter, a green filter and a blue filter, intending to blend the three to create color. Wow!
I'm thoroughly fascinated. But I have to confess I've yet to totally adjust to letting color into my imaginings of the world of my forebears. It still doesn't feel quite.....real? Right? I guess I still have some ways to go before I can get that sepia-toned "old" world out of my head.
2 hours ago