Volunteers digitally repair Sandy-damaged photos

for The Brooklyn Paper
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When Hurricane Sandy tore up boardwalks and soaked basements, it also swept away memories — in the form of thousands of irreplaceable photographs damaged by floodwaters. A group of volunteers calling itself the Cherished Albums Restoration Effort, or CARE for Sandy, is working to repair that damage by scanning and digitally retouching family photos soaked by the storm.

Park Sloper Lee Kelly founded the Cherished Albums Restoration Effort shortly after Sandy struck, and now organizes local events where Sandy victims can bring their precious photos to be registered, scanned, and sent out to her global team of volunteer retouchers.

The next scanning event is Feb. 24, hosted by Kentler International Drawing Space on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, with volunteers coming from as far away as Florida to help register and scan photos.

People can bring in up to 100 damaged photos to be scanned on site.

Gowanus resident Andrea Henkel heard about the project and scanned more than 30 photos from her mother’s waterlogged wedding album, which was soaked when her parents’ basement flooded. When Henkel told her mother that she might be able to have pictures in the ruined album restored, she burst into tears.

“She it said it was the best thing anyone could do for her,” Henkel said.

While much of the attention following disasters like Sandy focuses on the expensive material losses, Henkel said the loss of priceless photographs can be unexpectedly painful.

“You think about people losing more concrete things,” said Henkel. “People don’t think about how important pictures are. I’m so grateful to Lee and CARE for Sandy and all the volunteers.”

Henkel is still waiting to see the result of their efforts, but she’s confident it will be worth the wait. Kelly cautions that it can take days or weeks for a stack of photos to be restored because the work is often tedious and the volunteers are often donating their services while also working full-time. Of the estimated 2,000 photographs scanned, about 200 have been fully restored so far.

CARE for Sandy, Sunday at Kentler International Drawing Space [353 Van Brunt Street, (718) 875–2098,] Feb. 24, 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Updated 10:08 pm, July 9, 2018
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