He attended the Imperial Alexander Lyceum and the Institute of Applied Technology, where he studied until 1889.
After his schooling the scientist went abroad, lecturing at a technical school in Germany and continuing his work in chemistry at the laboratory of Edme Jules Maumene, who was doing research in color photography. In 1901, he established a photography studio and laboratory in Saint Petersburg. He returned to Russia to teach photography and do photographic research, and from 1906 to 1910 he edited and contributed to Fotograf-Liubitel. In order to best show his laboriously produced positive slides he designed his own projector, which could house 3-color separations and project them simultaneously. With the support of the czar, Prokudin- Gorskii was provided with a specially modified Pullman railroad car and given permission to travel freely and use whatever official assistance was available; so equipped, he set out to document his country. From 1909 to 1914 he traveled thousands of miles by tram and boat to do so, but after the revolution in 1917 he and his family emigrated to the West.
A straight documentarian, Prokudin-Gorskii worked with a small folding camera. Though most of his surviving work is scenic and architectural, he also made portraits and genre studies.
Quotes from others about the person
“Arthur Goldsmith writes that the photographer's 2,000 surviving images offer, "in gentle colors, nostalgic as a half-forgotten dream . . . the beautiful surface of Imperial Russia in the days of the Tsar: its rivers, hamlets, churches, peasants, and exotic comers. His work is a Russian Easter egg of visual delight" (Camera Arts, Nov/Dec 1980).”
In 1890, Prokudin-Gorsky married Anna Aleksandrovna Lavrova, and later the couple had two sons, Mikhail and Dmitri, and a daughter, Ekaterina. In 1920, Prokudin-Gorsky remarried and had a daughter with his assistant Maria Fedorovna née Schedrimo.