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View Diary: America Before Pearl Harbor - Early Kodachrome Images (321 comments)

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  •  Russian science and technology (23+ / 0-)

    were hampered for a long time for a long time by the insistence that Soviet science conform to Soviet political philosophy.  Sort of like the BushCo/Christist war on science, but worse.  Physicists such as Pyotr Kapitsa, Lev Landau, Ginzberg, and Abrikosov were all winners of the Nobel Prize for physics.  Landau and Lifshitz wrote a nine-volume "Course in Theoretical Physics" which is a classic in the field: many of the physicists I've studied with have have used books in that series as either a primary text or as a supplement to other graduate level texts.

    At the same time, though, many of these scientists were arrested and spent time in prison or house arrest for promoting scientific views or policies that were counter to the accepted party line.  Kapitsa, Landau, and Sakharov come to mind, but there were many others.  That politicization of science stifled a lot of innovation in the USSR, particularly during Stalin's reign.  In Dark Sun, the Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, Richard Rhoades talks about this, and about the subsequent need for the USSR to resort to espionage to fill in the blanks in their development of the atomic bomb.

    Of course, the propaganda effort in the West which portrayed the Communist system and the USSR in general as evil and backwards tended to minimize the public recognition of Soviet science and technology.  The USSR didn't help the visibility of Soviet science, since they tended to classify a lot of work, and it was difficult to know what was going on "behind the Iron Curtain".

    Changing topics, yes, the Prokudin-Gorskii photos are quite remarkable.  I'm not sure that the color values of these photos in the original are as stunning as portrayed in the collection: obviously a lot of post processing has been done.  Still, the overall technique is quite advanced for its time, and the results provide a wonderful window on Russia.

    •  Actually, (9+ / 0-)

      I've put together some of the high-res three-image-per-plate Prokudin-Gorskii TIFFs in photoshop, and it doesn't take very much tweaking at all to get vibrant color out of them. It could be argued that it's really prettier color than color film stocks have been capable of producing, in the same way the 3-strip Technicolor process was (see The Wizard of Oz).

      P-G's framing sometimes leaves a little to be desired, and for a truly tasty image, one is forced to diddle around in each of the color channels touching up the crusty marks of 100 years' damage, but the color process itself is unassailable. It's pure magic when you slice up the original plate, lay it in color channels, line them all up with each other and turn them all on at a color explosion bursting out of these ugly, nondescript monochrome glass plate scans. I was addicted to it for a while, and did probably 15 of them.

      The funny thing about it is that I highly doubt his triple projector system worked that well for viewing the photos back then, and computers are allowing people to see what he saw when he took the photos for the very first time, I suspect. He had to manually slide those plates through the camera, and the alignment is way off on some of them. Perhaps the projector had some kind of cranks for alignment on the fly.

      Anyway, it's similar to getting a glimpse into ancient Egypt or something, seeing color images of a culture so far removed from anything we usually see on film.

      And these Kodachromes are superb too!

      -5.88, -6.00 When the ELGIs are defeated, the GWOT is over. -- Richard Clarke

      by Porfiry on Thu Dec 07, 2006 at 10:00:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wish more of the photos were cleaned up (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The LoC's exhibit only displays about 50-60. The complete collection is here, which includes another 50-60 pictures that were also cleaned up but weren't displayed.

        However, there are nearly 2000 of these. I'd love to see more of these restored.

        And I read that Prokudin-Gorskii also took pictures of the Czar's family and many others that remain in the possession of his family.

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