My cousin Tracey is a fascinating individual. Endlessly curious, inventive and energetic, she is a trove of ideas and discoveries. Knowing that I am interested in the turn of the century, she once mentioned that she had discovered a book of colour photographs taken of Russia before the First World War. Sadly, she couldn’t recall anything about the book except that I would be interested!
This mythic book has sat in the back of my mind for a decade and a half until this week the photographic collection was mentioned in the Washington Post. The article links on to Prokudin-Gorskii Collection at the Library of Congress. It is a fascinating collection for, although the photographs are of Russia, they could almost be of Pembroke in my era (of course, now I find that there are other contemporary colour photographs).
Before the War, the mechanised-chemical age was still materializing, and you can see in these photographs a greater harmony with the elements and with nature. Weeds and bushes grow unchecked near the engine house. The town on the bank nestles among trees that provide cover from the winds. There isn’t a stick of treated wood in sight.
It is a different world made eerily familiar through an almost anachronistic technology.