Old photos, new context: Artist colorizes, creates magic from discards


There’s a tendency, when we view photographs of people who are no longer of this world, to project our imaginations onto their lives. Australian photographer and artist Jane Long has done just that, digitally colorizing and manipulating the glass plate photos of Costică Acsinte, a Romanian documentary photographer whose work dates back to World War I.

But Long takes that impulse several steps further, into the uncanny. Where most colorization simply aims to update a photo’s subjects, Long transplants them to an entirely fantastical — yet strangely familiar — universe in a series she calls Dancing with Costică.

Costică Acsinte's photo
Costică Acsinte's original photo used in Jane Long's Innocence.Flickr
Left: Tînără (1940) by Costică Acsinte, Right: Beacon by Jane Long.Flickr

Long's creations possess a Seussian playfulness, while also feeling like unnerving fever dreams. Either way, Long has done aspiring photo-manipulation artists a service by making videos of her process.

The results are absorbing to watch. Long's work will be on display at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in Australia through September 20. If you can't make it to Australia, scroll down to see more before and after images of her work.

Miri cu nași
Left: Miri cu nași by Costică Acsinte, Right: Neptune's Bride by Jane Long. Flickr
The Idea Farm
Left: Image from the Costică Ascinte Archive, Right: The Idea Farm by Jane Long Flickr
Tall Poppies
Left: Image from the Costică Ascinte Archive, Right: Tall Poppies by Jane Long.Flickr
All Hands on Deck
Left: Image from the Costică Ascinte Archive, Right: All Hands on Deck by Jane Long. Flickr
The Juggling Act
Left: Circari by Costică Acsinte, Right: The Juggling Act by Jane Long. Flickr
Left: Image from the Costică Ascinte Archive, Right: Singalong by Jane Long. Flickr

This post was first published by Sideshow, a blog and podcast from PRI's SoundWorks and Studio 360.

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