One Man’s Race Against Time to Save Another Photographer’s Legacy

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All photos taken by Costică Acsinte.

It all began the city of Slobozia, Romania in the 1920s. World War I photographer Costică Acsinte, who was born in a small village in Ialomița County, had just returned from the war. To further his experience, he decided to open his own commercial studio, the Foto Splendid C. Acsinte, and welcomed everyone and anyone who needed their photo taken.

Within two decades, he had accumulated photographs in the thousands, being possibly the only professional photographer in Romania at that time, so that by the time of his death in 1984, he had some 5,000 negatives, preserved in glass plates, collected. In all those years, Acsinte had photographed hundreds – men, women, children, families, lovers – and captured many important moments – weddings, friendship, love, even deaths – in those people’s lives.

But Acsinte’s collection had deteriorated considerably as time passed. Bidding the end of their lives in wooden crates, most of the negatives, which were (thankfully!) acquired by a small regional history museum, were succumbing to the elements – cracking, shrinking, peeling, molding, and fast becoming next to nothing.

And so lawyer-turned-photographer Cezar Popescu, whose father – also a photographer – had once worked with Acsinte’s son, is now racing against time to save the photographs before they disappear completely. He has undertaken this massive project, painstakingly cleaning and scanning every single glass-plate negative in the collection to digitalize and preserve Acsinte’s life’s work, because he didn’t want the world to “lose something so irreplaceable”; and he’s doing it all without monetary support from the state or any institution.

Starting the project last year in February, Popescu has so far processed over 900 plates. It’s still a long road ahead.

Watch him at work and check out some of the haunting photos after the jump. You can also see the rest of the photos from the collection on Flickr.

Via Time Magazine

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