Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii began his journey to capture all of Russia in color images on behalf of the czar in 1909. Since 1905 the color photography pioneer had planned to systematically document the empire with the color photography technique he had developed in order to give all Russians, particularly schoolchildren, a deeper connection to their country. He petitioned Nicholas II long enough that the czar finally provided him with a specially equipped railroad-car darkroom and the necessary travel permits.
After what would become a six-year photographic expedition, Prokudin-Gorskii fled Russia in 1918 in the aftermath of the October Revolution. After traveling through Norway and England, he settled in Paris, where he died in 1944. The United States Library of Congress purchased his work in 1948, but it was only recently laboriously restored. Both the exhibit and book Nostalgia showcase the resulting wider range of masterpieces of early color photography that are a milestone in Russia’s cultural history.