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CARE for Sandy, One Year Out

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 25, 2013

Care for Sandy before & afterOn the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, it's fitting to revisit one of our favorite charities — one which creatives with good Photoshop skills can assist. CARE for Sandy (Cherished Albums Restoration Effort) was started by creative director Lee Kelly in response to a web post about a wedding photo which washed ashore after the hurricane devastated Staten Island. While tracking down the photo's owner and offering her restoration services, Kelly realized she could tap into her network of colleagues to organize assistance for other owners of damaged photos. On November 10 — 11 days after the hurricane slammed the metro-New York City area — CARE for Sandy was launched.

In the year since then, the organization has conducted numerous scanning events in Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, accruing a backlog of thousands of photos in need of repair. Over 550 volunteers have contributed their services so far, removing spots, grime, and scratches, repairing heavy water damage, and even rebuilding entire areas of the photos that have flaked or torn off. To date, over 1,100 photos have been adopted for restoration by volunteers. While CARE is not at the moment running scanning events, families or individuals can submit scanned photos to the organization by following their submission guidelines.

The CARE for Sandy website offers numerous resources for potential restorers or those with damaged photos. Amateur restorers intent on building their skills should visit the website's Restoration Toolbox. It features a number of how-to videos on clone and heal tools, color correction for restoration, and masking tips, as well as guidelines on avoiding painted or noticeably artificial results. For those with photos that are  stuck to their frames, or have become "photo bricks" – photos that are stuck to each other once dried, or maybe even still moist, creating a solid “brick” of photos — the website has posted Salvaging Tips.

Moving forward, CARE for Sandy faces significant challenges. One is finding restorers with advanced retouching skills; as the website’s before and after gallery demonstrates, many of the photos require restoration skills which verge on the magical. Another obstacle is the abandonment of restoration projects (often with no communication) by volunteers who either become too busy or realize that their projects are too advanced for their skill set.

As an incentive to lure volunteers, the build-your-own-website company (and Kelly's webhost) virb has extended a discount of 50% for three months to CARE for Sandy volunteers. An additional incentive is a commemorative exhibition being planned for as early as this Spring, which will showcase the volunteers’ retouching skills. (CARE has received an impressive amount of press coverage – yet another perk for volunteers.)

While CARE has about 150 active volunteers at any one time, they are actively looking for more assistance from qualified individuals. Individuals interested in assisting can register online. For those wanting to see a sample of the kind of restoration work which is required, the website has posted ten “Adopt Me” galleries categorized by priority and skill level.. Kelly can also use help for a number of activities beyond photo restoration, from printing and framing photos for families, to creating content for CARE's news blog and contacting photo recipients. After countless hours of running CARE for Sandy, Kelly could also use a bit of personal assistance. As an experienced freelance creative director, she's always looking for paid work herself. After all, someone needs to pay the bills.

Above and below: some samples for CARE for Sandy photo restorations. Images © CARE for Sandy.

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