Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Pioneer in Colour Photography
Today, colour photography is the default, it’s easy, and anyone can do it. But it is only in the last century that colour photography has even been possible.
Born in 1863, Prokudin-Gorsky was a Russian chemist and photographer who revolutionised photography with the three-colour principle.
The method had first been suggested in 1855 by James Clerk Maxwell, but the technology did not match the theory and the results were severely lacking.
The technique, that Prokudin-Gorsky managed to accomplish, required three black and white photographs to be taken of the subject, each with a differently coloured filter – Red, Green, and Blue. This is due to the way that our eyes perceive the spectrum of light (and is why computer and mobile device screens use a combination of RGB).
Once the 3 images were captured; they could be projected through filters of the same colour and laid over each other to create a colour image.
The technique opened a new world of photographic options, allowing photographers to use a new dimension to tell their story; colour. But the process was not without its drawbacks.
Early practitioners were forced to change the lens filter between each shot, meaning the subject needed to be still throughout the entire process, or the final image would be blurred. This was fine for static subjects, but proved troublesome when making portrait images.