Old Photographs: Restored and Re-imagined


Australian photographer Jane Long is changing the way we look at old photos. In her series Dancing with Costica, she transforms photographs from the past, into dazzling imaginative images.

Her series is based on the work of Romanian photographer Costica Acsinte, who was born  in a small village called Perieți, Ialomița county, Romania, on July 4, 1897. He fought in WWI and, although he trained as a pilot, was an official war photographer until June 15, 1920. After the war, he opened a studio in the town of Slobozia.

Long takes the subjects of Costica’s photographs and transforms them into another dimension using vivid colors and whimsical ideas. The result is unbelievably striking images.

We recently interviewed Long about her original series of photographs

Where did you get the idea for “Dancing with Costica”?

I’d been chatting to a local framer and he asked me if I did restoration work. When I got home, I decided I’d find an image to restore to take in and show him in the hope that I might get some work out of it. I found the Costică Acsinte Archive on Flickr and was fascinated with the images. I downloaded the one of the couple in Fresh, restored and recolored it, but in my usual fashion it wasn’t enough. This couple were so serious and I wanted them to be carefree and happy and whimsical. They are in love, they should be happy!

What do you love best about old photographs?

There’s a sense of mystery to them, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the subject being photographed. It’s a glimpse not only into someone else’s life, but into their past.

How do you choose which old photographs to transform?

Some portraits jumped out because they were so different. For example the boy in Gun Shy seemed so foreign and shocking to someone growing up in contemporary, urban culture. Others were for their commonality with modern times, like the young couple just starting on their journey together.

Where do you get your ideas of how to transform the old photographs?

On the technical side, in terms of the restoration and coloring, I’ve learned mainly through experimentation. I also watch lots of tutorials! On the concept side, that’s a little harder to define. Sometimes I’ll see something in an image that lends itself to an idea and just let it sit in my head for a few days. I’ll look for props or locations that might fit, but it has to fit as part of the “story.”

Do you think that transforming old photographs helps us to better appreciate photographs from times gone by?

I hope so. I certainly think it’s important to conserve them. And restoring and recolouring them makes them more real to me.

What is your best advice for preserving old photos for future generations?

Digitize and backup! Most hard copy formats are going to degrade with time. If we can digitize and restore them and save them for future generations perhaps humanity can begin to see that we are all the same, and always have been.

For more amazing pictures from Jane Long, follow her on Facebook.

What do you think of the “Dancing with Costica” series? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Lori

    September 20, 2014

    Interesting and creative, but overall, I’m not a fan.

    I guess I’m more of a purist, but think it cheapens the true art of digital restoration. What if 100 years from now someone finds these and thinks they are authentic? I suppose I’d call this art, but I’d never call it restoration, because ultimately the photos are not “restored” … They are altered.

    So … cute and creative, but not for me. 🙂

  • Jorce Dreher

    September 20, 2014

    These pictures are beautifull,I had often wondered if that could be done,when I look at the old pictures of my mothers.

  • Karen T

    September 22, 2014

    I agree that the photos are art, not restoration. The ‘artist’ does a wonderful job! I especially like the young couple in love. PS I also think that people in the future will know that color photographs of this nature were not the norm during the original time period.

  • Walt Robbins, Jr

    September 22, 2014

    This reminds me too much of the Scrapbooking craze!! This type of thing is “Art” not photography. Personally, I think it cheapens the originals.

  • Mavis Zackeresen.

    November 17, 2014

    I do a lot with my old photos with keeping them in their old style which I would prefer to the altered state but I do think that the colours in the shown photos above are too harsh by far and does not represent the times of the era. The altered state is not for me……..