Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii’s photo, “A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea,” is a clear example of Russia’s changing economic structure and strange contradictory nature. The photo, taken between 1907 and 1915, depicts workers picking tea in a field on the outskirts of the Russian empire. They are dressed in light, loose-fitting clothing and are tasked with harvesting tea from the field where they work. The caption of the photo indicates that this type of work could be grueling, and the photograph makes it obvious that picking tea is a thankless job; yet, it was necessary to the Russian empire that agrarian work be done. Even though in the past one hundred years, Russia had attempted to industrialize, neither the government attempting the industrialization nor the workers adapting to the change reaped much benefit from this new economic type.
The photo was taken early in the Twentieth century, on the eve of the Russian revolution. Despite planned changes and improvements to the Russian empire – like industrialization and freeing the serfs – the photograph seems like it could have been taken a hundred years prior. The workers in the tea fields are stuck in time, lost between the old agrarian Russian empire and the new, industrialized, modern Russian empire. With this obvious disconnect, it is unsurprising that the Russian people would rise up and overthrow their government in a few short years’ time. The unhappiness shown on the workers’ faces makes it clear that a change was necessary, and would happen with or without the government’s consent.