Retouching Photos and Touching Lives: Restoring Family Photos After Disasters

After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, a professional photo retoucher named Becci Manson decided to help. She got on a plane from New York and headed to northern Japan, thinking she'd be doing the usual manual labor after a disaster of clearing debris. She'd volunteered in Haiti before, and thought she knew what to expect. But as she started working through the wreckage on the streets of a small fishing town called Tohuku, she realized that among the garbage, there were countless family photos—damaged, but possible to restore. She decided to launch a photo restoration project, and what was supposed to be a three-week trip turned into six months.

Manson recruited photo retouchers from all over the world to help, as she spent time in an office in Tohuku scanning, uploading, downloading, and printing photos. Depending on the amount of damage from sand, dirt, and saltwater, the restoration process could take anywhere from an hour to months of work.

The project in Japan isn't the only one—more volunteers have mobilized to help repair photos after Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters, and they're mobilizing again for victims in Oklahoma through organizations like Operation Photo Rescue.

Want to volunteer your Photoshop skills to help families in Oklahoma? Sign up here.