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Historical Glass Plate Portraits Restored and Colorized Using Photoshop Magic

By Hanssie on August 27th 2014

I always wonder what people will think hundreds of years from now when they take out the little round and shiny discs labeled ‘Photos’ and see what’s on them. Will they imagine who the brown haired girl with the puppy was? Will they laugh at our fashion? Study the props we use in our photos? Wonder why we took so many darn selfies?


In 2013, over 5,000 glass plates negatives taken by Costica Acsinte, a Romanian photographer who took photographs during the first World War, and also worked as a professional photographer before and after that, were re-discovered. To preserve these historical artifacts, Acsinte’s glass plates were digitized by the Costica Acsinte Archive.

Enter Australia photographer, Jane Long. Jane wanted to brush up on her retouching skills and stumbled on the archive’s work on Flickr.

I became fascinated with the images and their subjects. I wanted to bring them to life. But more than that, I wanted to give them a story.

And the project, Dancing with Costica, was born. Each photograph was carefully colorized and treated to a little Photoshop magic. Jane gave the images their own narratives in her mind. “I wanted there to be some ambiguity about the images, what is real and what is not real? Are these light characters or dark? Restoring and recolouring the images is only part of the process, the rest is the dance.


Each photo, of course, is intriguing and filled with an unspoken story from a time long past, and having color added to them changes the feeling of them to that of something more whimsical and surreal. It’s interesting to me to see a modern take on long lost photographs. Each image speaks of the person who created the image – Costica the photographer from almost a century ago, and Jane Long, who used modern technology to put her own artistic spin to these precious pieces of history.


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You can see more of Jane Long’s work and her photography on her websiteFacebook and Flickr.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    These are fantastic!

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  2. Michael Moe


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  3. Ian Moss

    Wes Anderson? Really? I can’t accept that. Perhaps you should reintroduce yourself with his work.

    And while I can accept this is a montage, it’s not photography, and it probably shouldn’t be considered art – more theft. There is no meaning, no semiotics involved here.

    Still, all good material for the next book :)

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    • Jim Johnson

      From your “insights”, my impression is that you tend to think only in literal terms rather than conceptually. It also seems that you mistake your personal tastes and preferences for a proper means of valuing (or even defining) art overall. And, it is both presumptuous and arrogant to believe that if you don’t see or understand the semiotics or meaning that they don’t exist.

      If you like or don’t like the work, that is your opinion, which you are entitled to, but do not mistake it for critique. Critique is based on a shared philosophy, history, and agreed upon set of definitions. By rejecting collage (“montage” is part of the lexicon of moving images) as an established art form, you are not showing insight, but ignorance of the history and theories about the subject you are discussing.

      You don’t have to be a cheerleader for the work or the artist (as some commenters often are), but if you are going to tear down another person’s work, at least have the courtesy to do so in a respectful way that reflects an attempt to engage with the work rather than making sniping, dismissive or shallow remarks from the sidelines.

      You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t defer to you and your definition of art, especially considering you have missed the not very subtle point of the Wes Anderson comparison completely.

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  4. Ian Moss

    This isn’t ‘restoration’ or ‘creativity’. It’s tearing an image out of it’s historical and sociological context and mutilating it. The original images say something about the society and technological development of photography. These sort of articles encourage the view that photography is about using computers rather than getting out and exploring the real world.

    I may be a single voice of dissent, but from my background, everything about these screams ‘cheap trick’.

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    • Jim Johnson

      It’s a modern version of collage art.

      And it uses photography and the photographic language (along with painterly aspects) which has been developed through a shared cultural and photographic history to present a fantasy. Sure it removes some of the original context, but it carries other bits of that context with it in order to say something different.

      To me, it is similar to film auteurs (Wes Anderson is the first to spring to mind) who use a mix of historical elements to create a fantasy world that is literally without a definable time, but grounded in reality.

      Or you can only see it from a purist’s point of view and dismiss it as a “cheap trick”.

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  5. Jim Johnson

    As a side note: This is a prime example creative work needs to move into the public domain instead of being granted copyrights that reach into generations after the creators death. Prolonged copyrights stifle creativity.

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  6. Jesse Rinka

    The restoration work that has been done here is pretty awesome.

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  7. Michael Giordano

    Great share. Maybe I overlooked it, but is there a way to tag favorite articles to our SLR Lounge account? Like a favorites section so if we want to read them down the road they are easy to find?

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    • Hanssie

      That is an awesome idea!!! I’m gonna toss that to the development team! Thanks for your suggestion!

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  8. Ian Moss

    These are truly awful.

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    • Hanssie


      For as long as I’ve moderated the comments on here, has there been ANYTHING that has impressed you? You seem to hate it all. (Not trying to be rude, just wondering what you feel is truly not “awful.”)

      Have a great day!

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  9. Rui Pinto

    Wow! Really hard work and some stunning pictures! Love the little sailors

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  10. Kathy Newman

    When I saw the sailor picture, my first thought was how much the mom would have love it.

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    wow i must say this is awesome stuff… l’l start snooping on grandpas pic and see what i can make of them…..bring colors back to life

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  12. Jeff Lopez

    Makes me want to dig up some old family albums. I love that they are eye catching but not cheesy. Truly inspiring.

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