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A photographer’s race to save Costică Acsinte’s archive of haunting portraits

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A photographer’s race to save Costică Acsinte’s archive of haunting portraits

Romania-based photographer Cezar Popescu has set on the important quest of salvaging the entire portrait photography collection of Costică Acsinte, a Romanian World War I photographer.

Cezar Popescu is a Romanian ex-lawyer who is currently acting as a hobbyist photographer in his home country. Several years ago, he has found a “hidden treasure” consisting of a huge collection of portrait photos captured by Costică Acsinte, a Romanian photographer from World War I.

Cezar Popescu finds Costică Acsinte’s collection of haunting portraits, sets on a quest to save it

The collection has been found at a history museum somewhere around Bucharest (the country’s capital city). Popescu recognized these works as his father had previously worked as a photographer alongside Costică Acsinte, years after WWI had already ended.

Upon contacting the history museum, Popescu has found out that the collection has been purchased from Acsinte’s family after Costică’s death in 1984. Moreover, he has discovered that the collection consists of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and hundreds of prints.

Unfortunately, many of them are in pretty rough shape and most of them have been almost-irreparably deteriorated by the passing of the unforgiving time as well as inadequate storage.

As a result, Cezar Popescu has decided to salvage this enormous collection and has convinced the museum to allow him to take over the plates and prints.

During the past few years, the photographer has been trying to digitize the negatives captured by Costică Acsinte, who was probably the sole professional photographer in Slobozia, a town located about 80 miles away from Bucharest and the place where he opened a photo studio.

The important thing is to save it, not to know who is in the pictures, photographer says

Popescu says that the degradation is quite serious and faster than originally believed. He says that he wants to salvage the collection “piece by piece”, although there is little information regarding who is in the photos and whether they mean something or not.

New cracks are showing up day after day, he claims. This is why the most important thing is to digitize the plates, Popescu adds, as it would be “a shame to lose something so irreplaceable”.

The abstract artwork of Costică Acsinte may be more valuable this way, considering the fact that the relatives of the subjects may not even know that these pictures exist. It would probably mean the world to them if they find someone they know in the archive.

Costică Acsinte’s collection can be found on Flickr and is free-to-use

Cezar Popescu has set up a video, showing how he is digitizing the glass plates. It is worth watching and it gives you a starting point in case you find similar prints.

You may have already thought about this, but it is worth noting that the photographer has not received any kind of help from the authorities.

We can only hope that he manages to save what can still be saved, also because the entire collection is available on the web for free.

The Costică Acsinte archive is available on Flickr, where anybody can check it out and witness an important piece in the history of photography.

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A photographer’s race to save Costică Acsinte’s archive of haunting portraits