Eerily “current” full-colour photos from 100 years ago

by Kaye on June 21, 2009

While I love the idea of black and white photography, these images seem surprisingly current because of the crispness of the colour. Mentally juxtaposing the time period they were taken in with their full-colour ‘realness’ makes me take a second look (and a third and a fourth).

When I compare these to the black and white images I usually associate with this era, I find it amazing how the medium itself literally ‘colours’ how we see history. These people seem alive, the sky is blue and the colour of their clothing is vibrant. I can identify with and learn from them in ways that I can’t from the dour-looking folk I see in most old black and whites. It makes me wonder how today’s realistic hi-res images (not to mention the rest of the digital context that goes along with the images) will influence people 100 years in the future.

They were taken mostly in Russia by a man called Prokudin-Gorsky from 1909 to about 1915. His technique of taking three different photos using colour filters and then projecting them on top of each other using coloured light gave the results seen above. There are a number of different sites that house his photos, among them this Flickr stream.