Log buildings in the Ural Mountain Region; c. 1905 - 1915, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii
I find these pictures mesmerizing. Some of them look like they could've been made yesterday. Others have unmistakable traces of their age like old artifacts or wooden buildings or strange dress codes.
I've seen many similar photographs of this time period, but always in black and white. To see them in color is surreal. It's like a Calvin and Hobbes strip:
We are so used to seeing photos from that era in black and white that we imagine the world was black and white. Try a mental test and imagine your great-grandparents in their living room, or a sidewalk scene from 1900. I'm guessing your mental image is in black and white. It's been conditioned by seeing photos. The past looked somewhat like this, right?
Now imagine a scene from 1500, before photography. I'm guessing it's in color. Or imagine any contemporary scene now that color photos dominate every media. Photography has a huge effect on perception and on imagination. I think that's why these old Russian photos seem so jarring.
They look imagined, and in fact one reaction is to suspect they must be doctored. The comments field below the Denver Post's article is full of accusations back and forth about the veracity of the photographs. The fringing looks Photoshopped or the colors look too bizarre or orange didn't exist back then or whatever.
Trust me, they're real. Those scenes existed in color and so do the images depicting them.