19th century photos - Anglo Afghan War, Central Asia & the genius of Prokudin Gorski

#1 May 24th, 2016, 15:28
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Yesterday, while looking for historical photos, something that I enjoy immensely, I came across something extra-ordinary. An album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Unlike British India, which was relatively much better photographed, Afghanistan, especially in nineteenth century is not photo documented well. There are 92 pieces in all, some of places (Kabul and Kandahar), some of officers but best, of unknown people going about doing their work. In his book, Return of the King, William Dalrymple has had this war as the principal subject and these photos are the perfect accompaniment. Some lesser known facts emerge too - these two sikh men (possibly religious figures) who fought alongside the british in Afghanistan back then.


https://www.wdl.org/en/search/?regio...9&countries=AF

Viewing in the link is much better as you can enlarge the photo or download it.

The other, very interesting part is what is called the Turkestan Album, a comprehensive visual survey of Central Asia undertaken after imperial Russia assumed control of the region in the 1860s. The album contains some 1,200 photographs, along with architectural plans, watercolor drawings, and maps. The “Ethnographic Part” includes 491 individual photographs on 163 plates compiled by Russian orientalists. Stunning images, if you like to walk back in time - here's Registan square, for example.



The best photos in the WDL are not from this time period, they are the work of an early color photographer - Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. Prokudin-Gorskii used an additive color technique but his early results involved errors including serious ghosting. The present color plates were developed by modern computer technology. Details on his wiki page. These two below are my favorite - Emir of Bukhara



The Fabric merchant of Samarkand.




All these photos are a part of the world digital library project, which is powered by Google and draws from the collections of the Library of Congress and The British Library. The total collection is much larger than the link above will show you. (remove the filters I have applied and you'd be taken to the main collection - then filter again for any part of the world and the time period you like - from Abe Lincoln to medieval Japan) - hours and hours of virtual museum visit - for free!
#2 May 24th, 2016, 15:45
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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Fabulous!
#3 May 24th, 2016, 17:08
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This is amazing, vaibhav_arora! Thank you for sharing this with us. I'll need to set aside more time to do it justice.
#4 May 24th, 2016, 20:01
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Thank you all The quality / rarity and content of the albums vary significantly. Some, which I thought would be interesting, such as 19th century China (opium dens, theater, art, etc.) and Middle africa (kingdom of Benin) - were not so great - perhaps the quality of what has survived has to do with it. The above three are tops, closely followed by a large collection of Photochromes of Algeria - their color rendition is not truthful but makes for very atmospheric photos.

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