Non-profit group brings flood-damaged photos back to life

Non-profit group brings flood damaged photos, back to life
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In August of 2016 residents of the Greater Baton Rouge area were not prepared to lose everything, including priceless photos, in the flood waters.

"You can't reproduce something that's already gone," says Cynthia Britton.

Or can you? The non-profit organization, Operation Photo Rescue is attempting to save the seemingly unsalvageable.

"We have done now probably 13,000 photos. We have been all over the place," President of Operation Photo Rescue Margie Hayes said.

Operation Photo Rescue is a group of volunteers and photojournalists who assembled after Hurricane Katrina; traveling the country, collecting damaged photos and rebuilding them. All flood victims have to do is bring in the original and the rest of the photo magic is up to the professionals.

"(We) photograph the photograph then turn them into digital files and those files are photoshopped back into health; as close to the original as possible," Head of Special Collections at East Baton Rouge Parish Library Melissa Eastin said.

Once the damaged pictures are restored, they are sent back to the owners within 6 to 12 months.

"Some of them you wouldn't think could be restored at all but photoshop, not that it makes it easier, but you can go into things like channels and where you couldn't see it normally, sometimes you can see underneath the damage that is there," Hayes said.

For most of the flood victims getting pictures revived, they were left with nothing to hold on to. Britton says everything in her home was lost except for a few pictures on the wall.

"The water went up and splashed all over them and got them all wet on the backs and wrinkled them," Britton said.

This simple gesture is igniting cherished memories for Madeline Jones who lost all of her pictures but six.

"I just finally threw away a lot of them," Jones said. "Those I have today, I just still kind of clutched on to them, hoping something would
happen and sure enough it did."

Additionally, this national-wide effort of generosity is also partly acting as a healing agent as the community continues to rebuild.

"Insurance can pay for most things but they can't restore your memories," Hayes said.

"The pictures mean so much to bring back the memories, that maybe we can't access anymore," Britton said.

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