Romanian Ghosts: The Race to Save a Hauntingly Beautiful Photo Archive

Time has rendered these portraits virtual abstractions. Beyond the psychedelic swirls of their shrinking, pealing emulsion, next to nothing is known about the subjects of the photographs, and very little about the photographer who made them. The greater part of their allure comes not from the information revealed, but from what is obscured and denied to the viewer.

Costica Acsinte was a Romanian army photographer during World War I who, following his discharge, opened a small commercial studio in Slobozia, about 80 miles east of Bucharest. For two decades after the war, he was likely the only professional photographer in the country, and by the time of his death in 1984, he had built an archive of epic, anthropological scope containing upwards of 5,000 glass-plate negatives and several hundred prints.

“Anybody who needed a picture had to come to his studio,” says Cezar Popescu, the one-time lawyer-turned-photographer who for several years has been painstakingly working towards digitizing the entirety of Acsinte’s archive with no institutional or state support.

Popescu, whose father had once worked with Acsinte’s son as a photographer, recognized the work several years ago after a small regional history museum published a few postcards from the archive. The museum acquired the plates — which had been kept in wooden crates open to the elements and even to curious livestock, Popescu says — from Acsinte’s family a few years after his death. The pictures remained mostly untouched until Popescu finally convinced the museum to let him scan them all before they crumbled completely.

“Piece by piece I hope to add as much information as I can,” he says, “but right now my main concern is to get the plates digitized. The degradation is quite rapid. Day after day, I notice another crack [in the emulsion].”

Few of the plates have inscribed dates or captions. Other than occasional military insignia, most bear no indications of when or where they were made or who their subjects are. “I’m not the guy who can tell you if the content of the pictures is important or not,” Popescu adds. “To me it just seems a shame to lose something so irreplaceable.”

As with most abstract work with few or no fixed referents, each encounter with the images feels unique. Popescu hopes someone out there can one day recognize a relative, or notice something of historical or regional significance, in one or more of the works. But their haunting aesthetic quality allows viewers to read into them whatever they want.

Since Acsinte’s death in 1984, there have been no know licensing restrictions on these images. In fact, the entirety of Acsinte’s work is in the public domain, as under Communist rule in Romania creative photography could legally retain copyright for just five years. The pictures are free for anyone to take and share, edit and interpret, sequence and re-sequence, on a blog, a printed page, a wall, a billboard — anywhere. Find the entire archive available for download via Flickr or follow on Facebook and Twitter. Recognize any faces? Send us a tip at


See also: Costică Acsinte Archive

Lucien Hervé

Première production de l’Association des Amis de Lucien Hervé et de Rodolf Hervé, ce documentaire a été réalisé pour l’exposition Lucien Hervé 100 au Musée des Beaux Arts de Budapest (27 octobre 2010 – 23 janvier 2011)

À l’occasion du centenaire de la naissance du photographe Lucien Hervé (1910-2007), collaborateurs, amis proches et connaisseurs de son travail témoignent de son œuvre photographique : Agnès b., Quentin Bajac, Attila Batár, Olivier Beer, Didier Brousse et Jean-Pierre Haie.

Chandigarh vu par Lucien Hervé (Trailer, Extrait)

Jérôme Bertrand Copyright 2013

This film is the result of the conservation and restoration 
of the original documentary installation by 
Jérôme Bertrand and Martin van den Oever produced 
by Kinokast in 1993 on behalf of the Dutch traveling exhibition 
'Chandigarh 40 years Le Corbusier'.

The present production is a derivative of the original work and
has been specifically adapted, re-mastered and edited to fit the 
requirements of the linear film medium - in contrast to the original 
slideshow montage with two separate video screens.

Although we tried in this film to keep as close as possible to the
to the original work, some details may be lost. We therefore recommend to view the work in its original form - as a story told in space.

Philippe Brame

Si Philippe Brame, le photographe français, connaît de mieux en mieux la Hongrie, son nom et son art sont de plus en plus connus des Hongrois également. Il est arrivé ici pour la première fois il y a 20 ans, et revient régulièrement pour visiter ses amis, pour exposer et pour enseigner la photographie. Ses expositions précédentes étaient centrées sur le vivant, que ce soit la nature ou le corps humain, mais ce nouvel opus, présenté à la Pintér Szonja Kortárs Galéria, présente une grande variété de ses clichés, illustrant les thèmes majeurs de son œuvre pendant ces dernières années.

Intervista a Mark Power

Mark Power, intervistato da m-mag, racconta il suo nuovo libro fotografico “THE MASS”

The Shipping Forecast by Mark Power/ Magnum Photos

Intangible and mysterious, familiar yet obscure, the Shipping Forecast is broadcast four times a day on BBC Radio 4. Power’s photographs are a response to the clash between the pictures built up in his imagination since childhood and the reality of the places he found.

Mark Power in Moscow

A new look at an old country: Mark Power at TEDxKrakow

Mark is a Magnum photographer and educator whose work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions across the world. His current project documents the Black Country, an area of the UK that has been hit particularly hard by the economic recession. While first impressions of these photographs might confirm this downturn in fortunes, on further viewing they reveal their “secret lives” of splendour of the forgotten and the everyday.

Mark spoke at the third edition of TEDxKrakow which took place on 21 September 2012 at the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Krakow. Our theme was “Secret Lives” as there’s always more to things than meets the eye, but we so rarely take the time to look at what’s really going on or what it takes to make life work. This year at TEDxKraków we looked behind the curtain of the apparently mundane and everyday to get a glimpse of some of the unexpected, fascinating, worrying, intricate and maybe even repulsive aspects of life that are usually invisible to us.



the author of Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922—32.

Richard Pare - The Melnikov House

Richard Pare comments on Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov’s house in Moscow. He made these comments in April of 2009 during the exhibition The Lost Vanguard, held at Lumiere in Atlanta Georgia. The exhibition was first shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, 2007.

All color images of the Melnikov house are photographs by Richard Pare ©, and are available for purchase. Please contact Lumiere with all inquires,, or 404-261-6100.

Photo and Model credit: Konstantin Melnikov’s Soviet Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition of Decorative Arts 1925. Model reconstruction by Henry Milner.