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Thursday, 11 February 2010


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There was an eye-opening BBC documentary series on the great Albert Kahn and his team of photographers a year or two ago that I didn't have the foresight to record. It made me wonder why his name and those of the photographers he employed weren't spoken of in the same terms as the other early greats; I thought perhaps it was because he wasn't behind the camera so wasn't considered an artist the way the others were, or because his work is somehow considered inferior. Glad to see him mentioned here. I learned quite a bit about European history of the early 20th century after seeing those pictures just because they made the subject so compelling.

Your mention of ISO 3,200 reminded me that some of Kahn's stuff has artefacts that look quite like today's digital colour noise—fine, powdery colour spots.

It is absolutely breathtaking to see a color photograph of a man who was born when Thomas Jefferson was still alive.

I refer to the photo of an old man in a black greatcoat and green belt is titled "Pinkhus Karlinskii, eighty-four years...1909..."

Every time I look at Prokudin-Gorskii's photos, I'm amazed again at what he accomplished. The new page is a very handy way to view them. Thanks for the links.

Oh. I thought Kahn already was part of the official history! :-/ His archive is a masterpiece.

Too bad it's again the Denver post page that gets linked, even though the reproductions there are much sloppier than the ones on the www.loc.gov site linked later in the article.

I don't know if the latter just has more post production work done, or if these are really different reproductions, but the Denver post pictures just don't do justice to the pictures, imho.

Compare this to this for a good example.

I agree with BJ Scharp that the versions on the loc.gov site are far better, not only are those at the new link 'harsher' [more contrast and saturation] there are also mroe failures of aligning the 'channels' now, even in stationary subjects like spires

Fantastic! I love these, Mike. Thanks.

When the Library of Congress first put Prokudin-Gorskii's photos on their website in 2001, they restored about 120 images manually combining color plates and removing all defects. Later, around 2005, they processed the rest of the photos automatically using special software. Now all the photos are posted as B&W originals and computer-generated color versions. Of course, color plate alignment isn't always accurate and all spots and scratches are still there.

Manual restoration in a very time consuming process, it takes about 5-6 hours per image or more, depending on the condition of originals.

I restored some PG's photos myself, you can see them here: http://www.gridenko.com/pg

I have no idea what ISO he used, but one thing I can say for sure: his photos have great dynamic range. Shadow details are much better than on the old Kodachromes from '40s you can see on the LOC website. Look at this photo ca. 1910. I used the Shadow/Highlight adjustment to enhance shadow details, and they look excellent!

Amazing! Thanks for posting this!

From the techniques page: "He then photographed the same scene three times in a fairly rapid sequence using a red filter, a green filter and a blue filter."

It is wonderful how he worked with black & white materials to create color images, and it was based on RGB ... somewhat like the digital sensors of today.

I got the Albert Kahn book for Christmas. My girlfriend took the initiative after falling asleep in front of the TV with me watching the documentaries!
The images are so amazing and so important as a color archive of a vanished world.
The doc is available on DVD for those who haven't seen it. It's worth the time if one is interested in history and photography and the history of photography!

He should of run that picture through Lightroom before he posted it. There's a lot of CA in the lower left corner. Must of been one of those Oldsmobile-driving Nikon guys.


I did a bunch myself ... restoring the color from the B&W scans at the Library Of Congress ...

Here's one ...


Fun project!

A few years ago I was experimenting with gum bichromate colour pictures using a similar capture process. It was great fun but also frustrating, it made me realise how easy we have it now.

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