Saturday, January 19, 2013

Historic photos of Russia in 1917

Hundreds of historic photographs documenting a young Yale graduate's travel to Russia during the start of the Russian Revolution have been discovered a near century later by his granddaughter after tucked away in his California home. Opening an old metal chest after her grandfather's passing, more than 500 hand-painted glass slides have been found capturing a remarkable 1917 excursion that put him face-to-face with heavy-coated soldiers, machine guns, bunkers and gas masks. Seen today fully restored after a near century of darkness, the slides were purchased in 2012 by Southern California camera and photo collector Anton Orlov after experiencing the extraordinary find first hand.

'...I was asked to come by a Northern California home to help translate and identify some mystery images,’ he writes on his photography blog of his first discovery of the photos in 2005.  ‘I love old photos, so I was eager to help. All I knew when I was on my way up there was that they were from Russia and really old,' he recalled. Opening up a number of wooden storage boxes presented before him, he was amazed by the hundreds of delicate glass slides, each containing tiny people, homes, villages and obvious signs of war.
Modern life: Men are seen warmly dressed outside a train station, a few perhaps curiously watching the camera
He purchased them all several years later, setting out to fully restore all that he could.
Inquiring of the photographer to the granddaughter, Mr Orlov was taken back in time to the fall of 1917 when John Wells Rahill, a recent Yale graduate and pastor, set out from the U.S. for Russia. Inspired by news of the first Russian revolution, a historic monument he wanted to experience and capture for himself, he grabbed his Kodak camera and joined the YMCA’s War Works Division, helping armies on both sides where he could. In the process he captured the people's everyday life, from the market place, to the bustling streets, to his own people working alongside him at the YMCA.

He even found time to travel to China and Japan after purchasing a number of photographs of the area taken before he viewed them himself - vowing to similarly capture them on his camera. After his return to the U.S. in the spring of 1918, he converted many of his best pictures to Magic Lantern Slides as a means to share his experience with others. He gave lectures on his experience with the YMCA while also working as a pastor, but by the 1920s, those who had worked in Russia during the First World War found themselves harmfully labelled as 'socialist sympathizers' in the U.S.

It’s believed result led to his pictures placed in his home's storage, locked away until his granddaughter's startling discovery. 'Those photos also have been unseen by the world because in mid 1920s they were put into a basement for storage and were only discovered 85 years later,’ Mr Orlov, who’s originally from Russia himself said. After a gruelling and expensive process of preserving all 500-plus photos, Mr Orlov is now hoping to recreate Mr Rahill’s journey himself come 2017. 

As an avid collector, photographer and developer who has transformed an old school bus into a traveling photo studio and darkroom, Mr Orlov’s so-called Photo Palace Bus - aiming ‘propagation of knowledge related to historic photographic techniques through cross-country art exhibits, lectures and demonstrations’ - is helping to showcase the hundreds of images.

See more photos: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2261174/Photo-Palace-Bus-Russian-Revolution-photos-discovered-photographers-granddaughter-homes-basement.html

WWI and Russian Revolution photos found

The Russian Empire in full colour (1910)