Rescuing Memories after the Storm
By Mary Lewis
29 Jul 2008
Operation Photo Rescue is a not-for-profit international organization of photo restoration volunteers of all skill levels. It was founded by David Ellis and Rebecca Sell, two photojournalists from Fredericksburg, VA's The Free Lance-Star newspaper after the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. They used their skills to take action and began to collect thousands of storm damaged photos owned by the victims. PhotoShelter donated server space and a web presence was created in order to round up volunteers to restore them. After being restored, the photos are printed and sent directly to the owners at no cost to the people who own them.
The organization does not limit itself only to the photos damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but also to other areas where there has been unforeseen damage caused by natural disasters or house fires. OPR recently organized a trip in April, 2008 to Winona, MN to collect damaged photographs from the flood victims. The photos that can be restored are digitally photographed and are made available, through OPR's web site, for volunteers to restore them. The originals are immediately returned to their owners the same day. In a succcessful two day trip they collected 415 photos. The turn around process depends greatly on the availability of the volunteers.
As of today, many photos and memories have been restored by the OPR volunteers. I joined OPR in September, 2006 and I am very happy to be a part of this project in my small way. There are many hard working volunteers who are very active in OPR and on their forum. They are always willing to help by sharing their tecniques or by answering questions. It is a great community and they are always accepting new members. There is an Official OPR Handbook in PDF to get you started and there are many great tips and tutorials to read up on in the forum. The restored photos can be seen in their Before & After Gallery in their forum.
Visit the OPR web site for more information and make sure to check out their blog for the latest updates.
UPDATE: OPR is made up of a determined group of generous people who intend to continue to help the victims of the recent diasters caused by Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Gustav and the floods in Iowa. Unfortunately, they have lost their funding for 2009 due to the bad conditions of the economy. They are also backlogged with photos in need of restoration. Any help would be greatly appreciated. For more detailed information about the situation, please view the discussion on their forum: