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Three Colors

Open to the public:
August 28, 2019 – October 6, 2019.
Tuesday - Sunday 12:00 – 19:00.
Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Curator: Edit Barta

Participant artists: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (RUS), Rudolf Balogh (HUN), Dávid Biró (HUN), Ágnes Eperjesi (HUN), Liz Nielsen (USA), and Bill Sullivan (USA).

The exhibition is centered on Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky’s spectacular early achievements in the field of color photography and his pictures taken in the Russian Empire between 1909 and 1915. Beside the images by the Russian photographer, the exhibition includes contemporary artists’ creative takes on the technology of color photography, studies on the issues of color theory and works directly influenced by the Prokudin-Gorsky oeuvre.

Originally a qualified chemist, Prokudin-Gorsky was already obtaining great photo-technological results with his color pictures in the first decades of the twentieth century, way ahead of his time. In order to capture the view, he developed a camera with three different color filters. He also designed a projector operating along similar principles to be able to show the pictures to the audience. He carried out his color experiments at the turn of the ninetieth and twentieth centuries, in the golden age of scientific and technological experimentation in photography.

The medium of photography meant technological problems to solve, a means of documenting and an artistic challenge to him. His endeavors were supported by Nikolai II of Russia who also commissioned him to photo document the Empire for several years. With the aid of his camera, he mapped, captured and cataloged the landscapes, the sacral and secular buildings as well as the inhabitants of the country. Upon his returns, he organized projection sessions to show his pictures to the public. He soon recognized the educative potential of this medium and its capability to reach out to the broad public and inform the people.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Alley of Chamaerops excelsus. Between 1905 and 1915. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Alley of Chamaerops excelsus. Between 1905 and 1915. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: View of the Kolva and Vishera Rivers. Cherdyn. 1910. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: View of the Kolva and Vishera Rivers. Cherdyn. 1910. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Emir of Bukhara. Bukhara. Between 1905 and 1915. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Emir of Bukhara. Bukhara. Between 1905 and 1915. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Dinner during haying. 1909. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky: Dinner during haying. 1909. © Prokudin-Gorsky Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

His heritage is more than the actual images, the afterlife and influence are at least as important as his oeuvre. This story is mainly about the evolution of the photographic medium and the effects of the photo-technological development of the devices. What could we, the posterity do with this basically invisible collection that nevertheless holds valuable information and exciting aesthetic qualities? The impressive color ranges of the Prokudin-Gorsky pictures and the images outlining the unknown world of the Russian Empire could not be left unprocessed. Applying special techniques, the American Library of Congress started working on the material in its possession around the millennium.

The relationships between view, image, and eyesight, the color experiments and the delimitation of the basic elements of photography will always remain in the center of attention of the photographic art; hence its significance to juxtapose the contemporary experiments and reflections on these matters. Prokudin-Gorsky was not only a photographer, he was a researcher and a scientist motivated by the information to obtain about the existing and viable photographic instruments and by the further possibilities to discover in the medium. He was a thinker and an innovator as all the other artists in this exhibition, namely Dávid Biró (HUN), Ágnes Eperjesi (HUN), Liz Nielsen (USA), and Bill Sullivan (USA).