Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We forget that the world has always been in colour...

Our friend Dustin just sent us a note about this amazing exhibition of 19th and early 20th century photographs by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii.

Dustin noted:
"He took photographs of Russia and surrounding areas (obviously) in black and white, but he had some ingenious method of using red, blue and green filters to essentially "colourize" the photos. Modern historians and photographers, using digital technology, have produced colour versions of the photos that are quite stunning. It's a little weird seeing colour 19th C photos, because I think we all secretly believe that the world existed in black and white until Kodak came along."

It is amazing how vividly these images bring a new sense of life to the past.


Blogger Krista said...

Yes, I think it defintely adds a new dimension to the pictures in my mind of the past. It's an interesting topic that the past was not in black and white. The fact that we all have lived in colour makes the world seem smaller and allows us to remember that we are not that much different from our pasts. We all know that there has been colour in the past, but to actually see some pictures (that aren't paintings) of the past is pretty neat....Thanks :)

12:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Totally... in so many of these pictures I can see myself (minus the 19th century Russian clothes and handsome beards, etc.)... I can see "normal life." It's really amazing. There's some beautiful photos of buildings, too, including an old wooden chapel that reminds me of some of our country churches here in the Prairies.

12:29 PM  
Blogger kimberley said...

what a brilliant project. indeed it brings the common daily objects much more into focus.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Came across this quote from the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky... I believe it speaks powerfully to these pictures:

"As a moral being, man is endowed with memory which sows in him a sense of dissatisfaction. It makes us vulnerable, subject to pain...In a certain sense the past is far more real, or at any rate more stable, more resilient than the present. The present slips and vanishes like sand between the fingers, acquiring material weight only in its recollection. "

2:37 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I'm a little un-nerved by these photos. Things like this always remind me of my own mortality. It's a very Orthodox sentiment to be sure but it's still not one I've grown into all that well. It sure does bring a sense of focus to things, though, doesn't it.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Mira-cle said...

This is awesome!! You do forget that they lived in colour! so true! I've started to feel lately that I'm understanding history in a very new way. Through recalling my family's history, which seems to have involved all sorts of major events in the last few hundred years...and then through our Church family, through our family that descended from Abraham. I feel an even closer tie to history that makes it seem as though it is all readily accesible in the eternal present. You know, like if you had a grandparent that can tell you stories of when they were in the war, it makes the war seem so much more real and accesible to you in history? Well that kind of thing, but spanning back a few thousand years as well.

I must add that the quote by Tarkovsky is awesome. Tarkovsky is one of my favourite filmakers. Sculpting in time...

8:40 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

I think I know what you might mean about the unnerving quality of these images, Stacy. The whole medium of photography, with its chemicals and transformations, reminds me of that line, was it James? "Life is but a vapour..."
And the clarity of seeing the colour on these people who lived in the generation of our great-great grandparents is shocking (like you were saying, Mira)....the whole mortality thing. And yet I still find it consoling in a very human sort of way.

Have you been to an Orthodox funeral, Stacy? I've only been to one (Krista grew up Orthodox so has been to many, her Dad being a priest and all), and I have to admit it was a little haunting to me, and I was a little scared to approach the body (some friends of ours' grandfather - "Gido")... but somehow there was a tender love that pervaded the whole thing.

Still somewhat odd, maybe, for us who've grown up in a culture where death is so hidden.

Hey Mira... I should mention that I found that quote on your friend's blog. I love Tarkovsky though. Andrei Rublev is one of my favourite films.

9:26 AM  
Blogger tim said...

these images are messing me up... wasn't the world black and white?... i thought it was... i really thought it was

wonderful images...

7:21 PM  

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