This man is named Pinkhus Karlinskii. This color photograph of him was shot when he was 84 years old, in 1909.
Think that through for a minute. Color photograph of a man born in, most likely, 1825. A contemporary, if just barely, of Beethoven and Jefferson.
He may be the earliest-born person ever photographed in color, and the backstory is this: The photo is one of a series shot by a man named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, using an experimental system that exposed three glass plates through red, green and blue filters. Project those three onscreen at once, or combine scans of them digitally, and you’ve got a superb additive-color image. Prokudin-Gorskii used his system for ethnography, shooting in the provinces that eventually became parts of the Soviet Union, documenting native life, and those plates are now held by the Library of Congress. They are fantastic social records, as much as they are technological tours de force. Here’s another one, of a Bukharan emir in full resplendent dress (click for full size):
A big set of them appears here.
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