Photo Restoration and Disaster Response

8 Aug

Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos

Becci Manson is a photographer and artist who used photographic restoration practices during the cleanup of the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan. Although trained as a photographer rather than an archivist, Manson saw an opportunity during the cleanup combine her knowledge of digital photographic retouching with disaster response to restore survivors’ photos. Disaster preparation and response are an integral part of an archivist’s training and Manson found a way to combine her knowledge of digital photographic retouching with disaster response to salvage family photos and memories.

In this TED Talk, Manson describes how the idea came to her while she was helping with the cleanup as a volunteer with in Tōhoku, Japan,

“During those 3 weeks of digging ditches and gutting homes I discovered vast amounts of photos that had been found and handed into evacuation centers. The photos were dirty, wet and homeless. As I spent my first day hand-cleaning them, I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be for me, my colleagues and my friends to fix some of them. So we did.”

After this, Manson began the Photo Rescue Project  while working with All Hands Volunteers. She enlisted a group of volunteers with similar skills to her own and began working to scan, retouch, and digitally restore the photos. Since that time, Manson has gone on to work on other disaster relief programs in Prattsville, NY after Hurricane Irene, and in Binghamton, NY after Tropical Storm Lee.

Disaster preparation and response are an integral part of an archivist’s training, and the Library of Congress has many useful online guides with information on how to care for your photographs. They also have advice and information on what to do if your family photos are damaged during a disaster, and a page on digital preservation.

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