Australian artist Jane Long has taken old glass-plate photos and given them a 21st century makeover. Lovers of vintage photography may be interested in a collection which breathes new and unexpected life into precious pictorial memories.
When revisiting these historic glass-plate photos, Long went beyond mere restoration. Photoshop has been employed to add details like birds, or lush flora and fauna. The results — exhibited at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in 2015 — are surreal, surprising, and truly magical.
From a proud bride becoming an ethereal forest being, to children posing in front of a fairy tale mirror, the photographic maestro has charged these early 20th century glass-plate photos with a bold, imaginative power. As well as adding color to the black and white originals, Long sought to flesh out their static contents.
Quoted in Mail Online from 2014, she said “I was free to create anything I wanted, making them beautiful and happy. Many of the images are post war so it was still a dark time for them.” In finding a positive visual narrative for the photos, she hoped to pay tribute to them in her own unique way.
She was also keen to blend the two sides as naturally as possible “I like ambiguity,” she explained, “so it made sense for it to look real and then to create a fantasy scene around them. What people think is real is not, and what they think is not real actually is.”
‘Innocence’ depicts a young girl, who is transplanted from a monochrome studio to a coastal scene, complete with death-defying goldfish. Many of the images feature children, with ‘All hands on deck’ being a particular case in point. The original shows two boys in sailors’ get up, one mysteriously missing his lower half.
The artist turns this curious sight upside down by inserting a bathtub around the pair, giving the lad the idea of legs at least. A giant pelican keeps them company in one of the more amusing pieces.
Long focused on one esteemed photographer, Costică Acsinte, who plied his trade around the time of the first couple decades of the 20th century. The Dancing with Costică collection is named in his honor. She worked with 5,000 pictures that had been recently digitized into an archive devoted to his work.
Acsinte (born in 1897) was a Romanian, who together with his lens was plunged into the conflict as a volunteer photographer. Alongside his own efforts, he developed film for pilots from the Romanian, French and Russian air forces. He would be the first outside their number to view the findings of vital reconnaissance missions.
On leaving the field, he opened a studio in the capital Slobozia. Over the decades he compiled an impressive private photo album containing 327 images, accompanied by descriptions, drawings and newspaper clippings.
Notable figures found in the album include Ferdinand I of Romania, Queen Marie of Romania, and General Eremia Grigorescu. Acsinte officially retired in 1960, though kept on taking pictures of local villages. He passed away in 1984. Acsinte was a master of his craft, as is Long. However she first got involved with his archive whilst looking to brush up on her retouching skills. In honing her talent, she discovered a whole new exhibition for herself.
In 2015 the website Mashable UK highlighted the nature of the project and Long’s belief it was a joint effort, rather than a single endeavor. “Although she says that she will probably never know the true life stories of her subjects, they became characters of her own invention,” it writes. “Though she will never be able to meet Acsinte, she helped expose his work to a new generation of admirers with a whimsical interpretation of the past.”
While Acsinte’s reaction will never be known, it’s hoped this extension of his photography will help his legacy live on into the next century.