In 1909, Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) set out on a journey to capture all of Russia in color on behalf of Czar Nicholas II. One of the early pioneers of color photography, Prokudin-Gorskii systematically documented the vast empire with the unprecedented technique he had developed—a method in which he used color-sensitive glass plates—decades before the widespread availability of color film. His color images were not only meant to document the diverse citizens, ethnicities, settlements, folklore, and landscapes of a vast empire, but to create nothing less than a common identity for its populace.
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