How photography became a hobby of the Romanovs

UNDATED: Children of Tsar Nicholas II. The series of the unique pictures were taken by the Tsar Nicholas II himself or people close to the royal family. They were realized in 1915-1916, the most terrible years of World War I. Nicholas II was an insatiable photographer. He took special care of pictures, filed them with care in numerous albums. He passed down his love for photography to Maria, his third daughter, who is responsible for colouring most of the pictures.

UNDATED: Children of Tsar Nicholas II. The series of the unique pictures were taken by the Tsar Nicholas II himself or people close to the royal family. They were realized in 1915-1916, the most terrible years of World War I. Nicholas II was an insatiable photographer. He took special care of pictures, filed them with care in numerous albums. He passed down his love for photography to Maria, his third daughter, who is responsible for colouring most of the pictures.

Getty Images
The early 1900s witnessed a global photo revolution, and the Russian royal family was not immune to this trend. This series of pictures from 1915-1916 shows the daily lives and characters of the Romanov family and their closest circle.

Tsar Nicholas II. / Getty ImagesTsar Nicholas II. / Getty Images

The royal family shared an interest in photography, which was popular in the early 20th century across Europe and the U.S. The progress in photo equipment made it affordable to the wider public, and the Russian Emperor himself grew fond of this activity.

Children of Tsar Nicholas II. / Getty ImagesChildren of Tsar Nicholas II. / Getty Images

The Romanov family owned the best camera of that time  ­– a U.S.-made Kodak – and often took pictures of their closest circle and posed for group photos.

This scary photo shows a fun-loving Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. She was just making faces with artificial teeth in front of the camera. / Getty ImagesThis scary photo shows a fun-loving Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. She was just making faces with artificial teeth in front of the camera. / Getty Images

Empress Alexandra was also very fond of photography. She ordered photo equipment from Great Britain and paid for professional photography services, which made up a significant part of the royal family’s expenditures.

(left to right) Anastasia, Olga, Alexei, Olga's friend Margarita Khitrovo and Maria. / Getty Images(left to right) Anastasia, Olga, Alexei, Olga's friend Margarita Khitrovo and Maria. / Getty Images

As photography became the favorite hobby of the whole Romanov family, a photo workshop was created in Tsarskoye Selo, an Imperial Residence outside the capital St. Petersburg.

Olga in her bedroom. / Getty ImagesOlga in her bedroom. / Getty Images

Up to 2,000 photos were created every year in the workshop.

Anastasia, Maria, Alexei, Tsar Nicholas II and Nikolai Sablin, an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, in 1915 in Ropsha, the royal family’s favorite hunting and fishing retreat 20 kilometers south of Peterhof. / Getty ImagesAnastasia, Maria, Alexei, Tsar Nicholas II and Nikolai Sablin, an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, in 1915 in Ropsha, the royal family’s favorite hunting and fishing retreat 20 kilometers south of Peterhof. / Getty Images

Nicholas II also owned a special camera that Kodak made for him exclusively. It allowed him to take panoramic views.

The daughters of Tsar Nicholas II: Maria, Olga and Tatiana. / Getty ImagesThe daughters of Tsar Nicholas II: Maria, Olga and Tatiana. / Getty Images

The photos taken by members of the royal family and their friends later transformed into a kind of “photo diary,” capturing their daily lives, looks and characters.

Margarita Khitrovo and Olga. / Getty ImagesMargarita Khitrovo and Olga. / Getty Images

According to Nicholas II’s published diaries, the family spent many evenings together working on the photo albums.

 Tsar Nicholas II and his son and heir Alexei. / Getty Images Tsar Nicholas II and his son and heir Alexei. / Getty Images

Usually, the Tsar and his daughters filed the photos themselves, putting the correct dates and places where the pictures were taken.

The family of Tsar Nicholas II. / Getty ImagesThe family of Tsar Nicholas II. / Getty Images

Maria and Anastasia decorated the photo albums with flowers and water-colored some of the pictures.

Olga and Nikolai Sablin. / Getty ImagesOlga and Nikolai Sablin. / Getty Images

The Tsar’s beloved pastime, which connected him with his people, gives a valuable insight into his character.

Anastasia and Maria visit wounded soldiers in a hospital during the First World War. / Getty ImagesAnastasia and Maria visit wounded soldiers in a hospital during the First World War. / Getty Images

The royal photo albums contain pictures of the Tsar’s children, wife and only the closest people.

The royal family. / Getty ImagesThe royal family. / Getty Images

They rarely show official gatherings and ceremonies.

Tsar Nicholas II with daughters: Maria, Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana. / Getty ImagesTsar Nicholas II with daughters: Maria, Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana. / Getty Images

The Tsar’s camera captured only pleasant moments of the life of his ordinary and harmonious family.

Read more