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August 1, 2006 – Last week, online stock agency BitShelter, LLC donated a free PhotoShelter account system to Operation Photo Rescue (OPR), a non-profit organization that restores images damaged in natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
"Insurance can replace homes, furniture and automobiles in time of need. However, photographs, which are important pieces of a family’s history, are unprotected," states the OPR website.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the seven-month-old organization was founded through the efforts of two photo staff members at The Free Lance-Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, VA. Photo assignment editor David Ellis and Photojournalist Becky Sell, who are now OPR’s co-presidents, organized the non-profit, which has taken in 2000 images, so far, according to Sell.
With 800 volunteers, including photojournalists, photo hobbyists, graphic designers, and image restoration artists, OPR restores images at no cost to victims of natural disasters, according to the OPR website. Because some photos are highly damaged and cannot withstand shipping, OPR travels to disaster areas, setting up shop in local libraries to take in restoration orders. The damaged photos are first photographed for digital imaging. Then the digital images are handed to the restoration artists who work on the photos for "hours upon hours," according to Sell. Before their partnership with BitShelter, OPR volunteers emailed the images.
"It is a huge blessing to have them," said Sell about PhotoShelter. The owners of the photos then get a same-sized replica of their photo, along with the original.
"Operation Photo Rescue’s mission is in line with our own," said BitShelter vice president of sales and marketing Grove Sanschagrin in a news release last Monday.
The donated PhotoShelter will act as a Multi-User (MU) account system which, as the name suggests, allows multiple users around the world to store images in a single archive. Using PhotoShelter’s accounts, volunteers can pick and choose which images to restore depending on their skills.
PhotoShelter has an OPR archive with 1,100 images that are waiting to be returned to natural disaster victims with approximately 700 photos still needing to be restored.
With flooding affecting other parts of the country, the organization plans to include photo restoration services for other areas besides the Gulf Coast.
As Hurricane Katrina nears its one-year anniversary, Sell said, "There will be more work to do in the future."