Costica-Acsinte

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Romanian Ghosts: The Race to Save a Hauntingly Beautiful Photo Archive

Time has rendered these portraits virtual abstractions. Beyond the psychedelic swirls of their shrinking, pealing emulsion, next to nothing is known about the subjects of the photographs, and very little about the photographer who made them. The greater part of their allure comes not from the information revealed, but from what is obscured and denied to the viewer.

Costica Acsinte was a Romanian army photographer during World War I who, following his discharge, opened a small commercial studio in Slobozia, about 80 miles east of Bucharest. For two decades after the war, he was likely the only professional photographer in the county, and by the time of his death in 1984, he had built an archive of epic, anthropological scope containing upwards of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and several hundred prints.

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Australian artist Jane Long’s Dancing with Costică series is inspired by the works of Romanian war photographer Costică Acsinte. Long was searching for photos to practice her retouching skills on and discovered an online archive of Acsinte’s images taken during the 1930s and ‘40s. “I will probably never know the real stories of these people but in my mind they became characters in tales of my own invention,” Long said of the work. 

See the full set here

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Jane Long Collaborates with a Photographer from a Century Ago

Separated by nearly a century of time and half a world apart, Australian artist Jane Long has re-imagined the vintage portraits of Romanian photographer Costica Acsinte in a highly fantastic fashion. A war photographer and pilot during the First World War, Acsinte opened a studio in Slobozia where he created thousands of glass plate photographs. Those images are now being digitized and added to the Flickr Commons, where Long found them and gave them new life.

Long’s work is highly creative, imagining entirely new scenarios for the people in each portrait. Colorful vistas take the place of Acsinte’s simple studio backdrop, and magical touches abound. Who were these people and what was their life story? That mystery only adds to the mystique of each image. 

image by
Costica Acsinte

“Anybody who needed a picture had to come to his studio,” says Cezar Popescu, the one-time lawyer-turned-photographer who for several years has been painstakingly working towards digitizing the entirety of Acsinte’s archive with no institutional or state support.”

These people have lived about 70 years ago, around 1945. Sometimes the year when the photograph has been taken is scratched into the image, otherwise we couldn´t guess. If we don´t know anything about life in Romania at that time, we won´t know a lot more after having seen these images. We see burials, we see marriages, we see people working on the fields. Uniformed men, children in pioneer uniforms, women dressed up, they want to be pretty and they are, men and women, couples and kids: they all came into Costica Acsinte´s studio to get a picture taken, to commemorate something. Always a special occasion it was then.

We tend to forget about death. We have to forget about many things, otherwise life could be unbearable.

Looking at photographs we rarely are aware oft he fact that we are looking back into time. Confronted with Costica Acsinte´s deteriorating images it´s unavoidable for us to notice: these people have faded away, as these images fade and disappear, as we will fade and disappear too.

Life is fragile, and we are too.
That is what I see in these images.

image by
Costica Acsinte

Costica Acsinte was a Romanian army photographer during World War I who, following his discharge, opened a small commercial studio in Slobozia, about 80 miles east of Bucharest. For two decades after the war, he was likely the only professional photographer in the country, and by the time of his death in 1984, he had built an archive of epic, anthropological scope containing upwards of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and several hundred prints.

“Anybody who needed a picture had to come to his studio,” says Cezar Popescu, the one-time lawyer-turned-photographer who for several years has been painstakingly working towards digitizing the entirety of Acsinte’s archive with no institutional or state support.

words by
Eugene Reznik

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Costică Acsinte

Born 4th of July, 1897 in a small village called Perieți, Ialomița County, România, Costică Acsinte fought in WWI. Despite his formation as a pilot, he was a official war photographer till 15th of June, 1920. As soon as the war was over he opened a studio — „Foto Splendid C. Acsinte“ in Slobozia town.

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Costica Acsinte was a Romanian army photographer during World War I who, following his discharge, opened a small commercial studio in Slobozia, about 80 miles east of Bucharest. For two decades after the war, he was likely the only professional photographer in the county, and by the time of his death in 1984, he had built an archive of epic, anthropological scope containing upwards of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and several hundred prints.


Read more: The Race to Save a Hauntingly Beautiful Photo Archive - LightBox

Historic Glass-Plate Photos From Romania Restored And Turned Into Colorful Art (Part 2)

image by
Costica Acsinte

Costica Acsinte was a Romanian army photographer during World War I who, following his discharge, opened a small commercial studio in Slobozia, about 80 miles east of Bucharest. For two decades after the war, he was likely the only professional photographer in the country, and by the time of his death in 1984, he had built an archive of epic, anthropological scope containing upwards of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and several hundred prints.

“Anybody who needed a picture had to come to his studio,” says Cezar Popescu, the one-time lawyer-turned-photographer who for several years has been painstakingly working towards digitizing the entirety of Acsinte’s archive with no institutional or state support.

words by
Eugene Reznik