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April 14, 2003

Library of Congress Exhibition of Russian Photographs Opens in St. Petersburg on April 12

Photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Reveal a Lost World. Online Version of the Exhibition Available at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington joined U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow in opening an exhibition of 58 color photographs from the Library of Congress at the Garden Hall (Sadoviy Vestibule) of Mikhailovsky Palace at the State Russian Museum on Saturday, April 12. The photographs, taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in diverse areas of the Russian Empire between 1909 and 1915, offer a vivid portrait of the empire on the eve of World War I.

"It is my great pleasure to be here with Sen. and Mrs. Ted Stevens and our colleagues from the American Embassy and St. Petersburg Consulate to open 'The Miracle of Photography: Recreating the Photographic Legacy of S.M. Prokudin-Gorskii'" said Billington. "The last exhibition of Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs was held in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace in March 1918, just months before he left Russia. On behalf of the Library of Congress, I am pleased to bring this magnificent exhibition home to St. Petersburg, the city where Prokudin-Gorskii developed the color technology that allowed him to produce these photographs that will be on display to celebrate the city's Jubilee."

Billington continued, "I am particularly honored that Sen. Stevens has joined me to inaugurate the exhibition on behalf of the U.S. Congress, whose generous support and patronage of the Library during the past 203 years has enabled us to amass our vast American and international collections."

In the early 1900s, Prokudin-Gorskii developed an ambitious plan for a photographic survey of the Russian Empire to record its vastness, diversity and development, which was approved and supported by Czar Nicholas II. Between 1909 and 1915, he carried out his photographic survey in 11 regions of Russia, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation.

Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944), a chemist by education, was a pioneer in the development of color photography. He recorded his unique images of Russia as three separate images on one glass plate and exposed in rapid succession through three different color filters. For this exhibition, which was originally displayed at the Library of Congress in April 2001, the glass plates were scanned electronically, and, through an innovative process known as digichromatography, used to produce brilliant color images.

Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918, going first to Norway and England before settling in France. The Library of Congress purchased 1,800 of his unique color images of Russia in 1948 from his heirs. The name of the exhibition-"The Miracle of Photography"-is taken from the name of Prokudin-Gorskii's last exhibition in Russia in 1918 in Nicholas Hall at the Winter Palace.

"The Miracle of Photography: Recreating the Photographic Legacy of S.M. Prokudin-Gorskii" will remain on view in St. Petersburg through June 15, and it will open in Moscow at the Shusyev Architecture Museum at the beginning of July.

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PR 03-065
04/14/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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