Australian-based artist Jane Long has taken decades-old photos of Romanian men, women and children and transformed them into vibrant scenes of colour and fantasy.
The original photos are by Costică Acsinte, a Romanian war photographer who opened his own studio in 1918 in the town of Slobozia and took hundreds of portraits throughout his career. In 2013 archivist Cezar Popescu started to digitise around 5,000 glass plates by the photographer.
Acsinte’s photos, which can be found on Flickr Creative Commons, inspired Long to add her own art to his lifelong work. Photographing extra backgrounds and props, she used Photoshop to transport Acsinte’s subjects to other worlds. Her final project is called Dancing with Costică.
Use a slider to compare Ascinte’s photo with Long’s artwork.
Long found herself intrigued by the original images, telling Akita: “The children in the Costică Ascinte archive have such a stark contrast to children today. The way they dress, the way they pose for the camera.
“Some of this is conventions of the time and the fact that exposure times were so long for photography, and that the subject had to stay very still. It makes them look so serious and conservative and I wanted to either make them look playful or have some ambiguity about whether they were happy or sad, good or wicked!”
“A Fond Farewell”
“The Whimsy Brothers”
“A Stitch in Time”
In her image ‘Sweetheart’, Long says she wanted to reflect on the fact that the children are no longer young, and are now most likely deceased. “We see them in these images as a moment frozen in time and I wanted to explore the idea that they grew up and had lives that we will never know about.”
“The Juggling Act”
In ‘Tall Poppies’, Long wanted to acknowledge the large number of images in the archive showing people in military uniform. “How many of them gave their lives in service to their country in a time of war and hardship?”
Long adds: “In ‘Beacon’ the girl looked like she might be someone’s sweetheart, waiting for them to return home. Perhaps that’s why many of these images were taken – as treasured keepsakes for those leaving home and those left behind.”
“The girl in ‘Innocence’ jumped out at me right away but it took me some time to come up with a suitable concept for her. She was definitely one who looked like she might be a bit mischievous!”
“Burn It All Down”
“‘Underneath’ was one where I loved their expressions but also their outfits! The little boy’s suit and the stark smoothness of the girl’s dress. I wanted to mess that up a little! Also their expressions are so serious – I wanted to create a counter to that by adding some silliness!”
“The Idea Farm”
Little is known about the subjects in Acsinte’s photos and no one has come forward to tell Long they are the relatives of the people in her art. “I do find that a little odd,” she says, “surely someone must know who these people are!”
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Jane Long’s art is available to purchase as limited edition, hand signed prints.
Akita was granted permission to use images by Jane Long.