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July 10, 2016

These Vintage Romanian Portrait Photographs in Terrible Condition Are Totally Haunting

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.

After serving as a Romanian war photographer from World War I through 1920, Costica Acsinte (1897–1984) settled in Slobozia in the south of the country and set up a studio called Foto Splendid Acsinte. There he proceeded to document the surrounding community in over 5,000 images.

Acsinte died in 1984, and the glass-plate negatives were mostly forgotten and left in storage that exposed them to the elements. This documentation of Romania centered between 1935 and 1945 could have been totally lost if it weren’t for the Ialomița County Museum, which acquired all 5,000 of the plates in the 1990s.

The photos have since fallen into the public domain, and photographer Cezar Popescu has been collaborating with the museum on digitizing all of the images. Now, Popescu is crowdfunding through Indiegogo to complete the project. The campaign also aims to improve the storage facilities of the delicate glass plates.

(Images: Costică Acsinte—Courtesy of Costică Acsinte Archive/Flickr, via TIME)



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