July 20, 2006
Source: The Daily Times
Written by Jackie Jennings
The bride was beautiful, once upon a time…
Now her smile is barely visible behind streaks of mud; her dress is tattered, her white bridal bouquet all but faded away. She doesn’t have a name, at least not one that has been made public, but somewhere she’s waiting for her wedding photo, perhaps the only memory not destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“It breaks my heart,” said Jeanne Anderton. “There have to be millions, if not billions, of these kinds of images just out there waiting to be taken care of.”
Anderton is a professional photographer in Salisbury. A few months ago, she stumbled upon Operation Photo Rescue, a grass-roots organization created to “rescue” thousands of personal photographs destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Now she is one of a legion of volunteers plucking photos off the Internet and restoring them for total strangers. “The albums are rotted and mildewed, they’re being tossed away.”
The idea for OPR came from photographer Rebecca Sell and photo assignment editor Dave Ellis at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va. Sell was covering the Katrina aftermath and came home with a shot of a woman holding a family photo recovered from the rubble. Ellis saw the photo, and realized photographers had a unique ability to help. They began collecting the badly-damaged pictures, and rounding up volunteers to help restore them. Photographs arrived by the hundreds and more volunteers joined in. A company called PhotoShelter donated server space for a web site, and Operation Photo Rescue was on its way. Anyone with knowledge of Photoshop and an hour or two can become a volunteer. “They don’t even have to be photographers. I’ve met some doctors who just love Photoshop and they want to help. Here’s the chance to do it,” said Anderton.
The first photo Anderton restored, what looks to be a pair of brothers in their soccer uniforms, took a few hours. “You just kind of work your way into it, kind of smooth out the faces, work on the hair. It’s a little thing. It’s a couple of hours out of my life. For them, it is their life.”
Damaged photos of every description have found their way to OPR: a father and his newborn baby, a First Communion, a college graduation, a man playing the accordion.Some photos are creased and faded; others are growing mold, torn and now devoid of color. Most have some water damage. Volunteers choose a photo, send it to their own computer, restore it and send it back. The image is then printed and presented to the original owner, all free of charge.”They also have a forum, so people can exchange ideas,” said Anderton. “Things like ‘the hair is missing, how do you put hair in and make it look natural?’ And someone will answer, so you’ve got this community helping you.”
OPR offers guidelines to help volunteers get started, and limits hurricane victims to five photos, maximum. (“Can you imagine picking out the (five) most important pictures of your life?” asks Anderton).
She is adamant about recruiting help. “What would happen if three people at the paper became a part of this organization and three at the University and three at Wor-Wic and one from each high school?” And adds this sobering thought: “Who knows, next year it could be us.”
For more information, visit www.oprworkshop.org.