Thursday, August 30, 2007

Operation Photo Rescue in Biloxi

I spent part of last week helping the folks over at Operation Photo Rescue (OPR) collect photos for restoration in Biloxi, Mississippi. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, people are still holding on to moldy and contaminated pictures that they were able to salvage after the storm. OPR volunteers make digital copies of the photographs and give the originals back to their owners, then upload the images onto a website where volunteers from all over the world choose which photos they'd like to restore. After this is completed, participants receive new copies in the mail at no cost to them.

We met some really nice people. Some came through the door with armloads of pictures, others only had one or two. But everybody had a story. Many couldn't hold back tears as they talked about the storm or the photos and memories it left damaged forever. We kept hearing the same things over and over. Please help me, this is the only picture I have of my grandmother. She isn't with us anymore. This is my wedding album. My friend found it stuck in the mud three blocks away from where my house used to be. This photo belongs to my neighbors. We've been in touch, but we haven't seen them since the storm. Is there anything you can do? Please do what you can. Please...

Sometimes the photos they showed us would barely be damaged. They'd look at us in relief when we'd tell them it would be no problem to help them out. Other times, they'd point to a blob and all but ask us to work miracles. And we'd have to look them in the eye and tell them there was nothing we could do.

It was an interesting three days. Folks talk about how one newspaper photo can help change somebody's life. Maybe this is true, but we don't always get to find out what happens to a subject after we snap their picture and walk out their door. So it was good to get to help people out and see the results immediately, to know that they would end up with something tangible that they could keep forever.

Look at my photo gallery and check out a video a local TV station did about OPR. Or read a newspaper article about the trip by Rusty Dennen of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Also check out OPR volunteer Ed Linn's blog. And don't forget the blog of Free Lance-Star photojournalist Mike Morones.

1 comments:

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