Places Associated with S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky

In preserving the memory of famous people, later generations often take note of those places that were connected in some way with their life and work. So, we talk about “Pushkin places” or “Tolstoy sites.” Sometimes these places themselves become a memorial estate or an apartment museum; others are recognized with a memorial plaque or sign on a wall, while some are mentioned only in guidebooks or stored in people’s memories. But however these places are memorialized, they become a source of pride for local residents and evoke the interest of those who honor this or that notable person.

The memory of S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky is only now beginning to surface, and even his admirers still know very little about where this pioneer of Russian color photography was born, grew up, lived, taught, and worked.

Therefore, we have tried to compile the first systematic list of places associated with the great master of “natural color,” with the goal that, over time, we can fill in details of each of them. We emphasize that this list does not include those innumerable places, from the Italian island of Capri to the Siberian city of Tobol’sk, where Prokudin-Gorsky shot his remarkable photographs, even though these places also, in some sense, are part of his biography.

So, here is the list of places associated with Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky in chronological order, with brief annotations.

Funikova Gora and surroundings

The old village (now a hamlet) of Funikova Gora in Pokrovsky county (now the Kirzhach district) of Vladimir Province over the course of several centuries was the site of the ancestral estate of the Prokudin-Gorskys and the place where Sergei Mikhailovich was born. The precise location of the house where he was born has not been determined. According to the parish register, he was baptized on August 20, 1863 in the nearby Archangel church -- that is, only two days after his birth. The cemetery at this church was the burial site for several members of the Prokudin-Gorsky family; specifically, in 2008 there was found a partially destroyed grave of another S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky, the brother of the photographer’s grandfather, who had been a sponsor of the construction of the church of the Archangel Michael. He died in 1841. Kirzhach, the city closest to the estate, is also closely associated with the history of the Prokudin-Gorsky family: there, in the gallery of the ancient Annunciation cathedral, were preserved until the beginning of the 20th century stone grave markers of ancestors of the pioneer of color photography.

Murom

The ancient city of Murom has recently been mentioned as the birthplace of S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky. This mistake did not arise fortuitously – S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky himself from 1918 on would write on forms and applications that he had been born in Murom. While we now know this was not the case, nevertheless this city can rightly be considered Sergei Mikhailovich’s home town. So far it is not known exactly where in town he lived (probably beginning in 1873). In 1873-1875 his father worked as an agent of the Yaroslavl’-Kostroma Land Bank in Murom. Local historians recently located evidence of two houses that had belonged to the Prokudin-Gorskys, in the parish of the Sretensky church (which has been preserved).

Tsarskoe selo

From around 1883 until 1886 S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky was educated at the Alexander Lyceum in Tsarskoe selo (the “tsar’s village”).

Gatchina

Prokudin-Gorsky lived in the city of Gatchina beginning in 1890. Here his children were born – Dmitry (1892), Ekaterina (1893), and Mikhail (1895). From 1890 until 1917 Prokudin-Gorsky was on the board of directors of the Society of Gatchina Bell, Copper, and Steel Factories. Prokudin-Gorsky’s mother, who died in 1909, is buried in the Gatchina cemetery.

St. Petersburg

Much of S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky’s career is connected with St. Petersburg. He studied at Petersburg University 1886-1888, and at the Military Medical Academy, 1888-1890.

Beginning in 1890 Prokudin-Gorsky became an active member of the Demidov House in St. Petersburg.

On August 2, 1901, S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky opened his “photozincographic and phototechnological studio” at Bol’shaya Pod”iacheskaia Street, 22. The studio functioned until Prokudin-Gorsky emigrated from Russia in August 1918.

From 1910 (possibly 1909) Prokudin-Gorsky lived at the address, Fontanka Embankment, 133.

In 1918-1925, members of the Prokudin-Gorsky family lived in Petrograd (Leningrad) at the address, Vereiskaia Street, 40/7, apartment 4.

Charlottenburg, Germany

Charlottenburg is a small city close to Berlin. Here in 1902, under the tutelage of Adolph Miethe, Prokudin-Gorsky was initiated into the secrets of color photography in the laboratory of the Higher Technical School.

Mellola (Kamyshevka)

Kamyshevka (until 1948 called Ala Mellola or simply Mellola, its Finnish name) is a small settlement in the Vyborg region of Leningrad Province. A former Finnish village, the southwestern part of which, Kauk-Järvi was included until 1939 in the township of Kuolemajärvi of the Vyborg (Viipuri) province of Finland. Eduard Stark, well-known Petersburg theater critic, had his dacha here, and according to legend Prokudin-Gorsky made his first attempts at color photography here, in 1903 or 1904. Close to the settlement is “Krasavitsa” (Kauk-Järvi) lake, known to us from a color postcard that Prokudin-Gorsky produced.

Turovo and vicinity

The village of Turovo is located not far from the city of Luga (now in Leningrad Province). The dacha belonging to S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky’s father-in-law, Aleksandr Stepanovich Lavrov, was located here. After Lavrov’s death in 1904, Prokudin-Gorsky inherited the property. During the winter of 1904/05, the pioneer of color photography shot a remarkable series of photographs in the vicinity of Turovo. The dacha at Turovo was used by the Prokudin-Gorsky family as a seasonal residence up until the 1917 revolution, and possibly even after it. The house at the dacha was destroyed during the war.

Drammen, Norway

Prokudin-Gorsky lived 1918-1919, in the first years of emigration, in the Norwegian city of Drammen (called Skoger until 1964).

Nice, France

In 1906 Prokudin-Gorsky received a medal “For the Best Work” at Nice, at an exhibition by the local photo club. In two earlier shots the master photographed the small town of Villefranche-sur-Mer in the immediate vicinity of Nice.

In September 1921 Prokudin-Gorsky left England for Nice, where construction on a small cinema studio had begun for him. In December 1924 Prokudin-Gorsky founded, together with members of his family, the firm “ELKA” in Nice, In 1925 the family moved to Paris.

Paris

Prokudin-Gorsky lived in Paris from 1925 until his death in September 1944. He is buried in the Russian émigré cemetery in the Paris suburb of Ste-Geneviève-de-Bois.

Translated by H. M. Leich

 


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