CARE for Sandy helps hurricane victims one photograph at a time

Restoring pictures with CARE for Sandy

“There’s a picture of my father’s brother who was killed in World War II. Two pictures of him. He was killed when he was 18 years old,” says Cedarhurst resident Eileen Weinstock. She was one of many Sandy victims at Nassau Community College on Sunday, April 7 who were getting damaged pictures restored.

The program to restore such photographs was created by a non-profit organization called CARE for Sandy. Founder Lee Kelly said that the organization’s goal is, “restoring memories as well as photographs.”

It’s more than just a picture

Phyllis Diamond from Woodmere, whose house was damaged after water surged into her basement, said she didn’t even know that there was a way to restore damaged photographs.

“I had no idea that there was a way to do it,” she said. “I took all the frames, threw them away, kept the pictures, because I wasn’t throwing them away. Some of pictures are 100 years old.”

Adrienne Stratmann from Freeport, whose waterfront home was heavily damaged by water, brought seven family photographs that needed restoration. She said she had thrown a lot of photographs away before she heard about CARE for Sandy.

Families could bring up to 50 photographs for restoration. Nassau student and volunteer Stefanie Goldberg said, “I only brought three. But some people, I feel bad, because they can only bring 50, because we can only do so many in the day.”

Lee Kelly thinks that each photograph is “special” and “has some sort of deep inner meaning,” sometimes they might look “unexceptional,” but they can be all that’s left of someone’s loved one.

“I had one family who came to one of our events and they only had six photographs,” Kelly said. “They looked like construction photographs and they had to put a paragraph explaining what I’ve just explained, saying there might not be a person in this photograph, but the family cried when they delivered these photographs.”

Her team consists of 450 volunteers from 23 countries, who are dedicating their time and using all their skills to bring those cherished photographs back to their original state.

Photo restoration is a quite lengthy and intricate process. “I’m very, very particular. I’m looking for ‘somewhere professional’ to ‘professional’ results,” says Kelly. “I realize that each and every one of these is precious and I want them to look as good as possible.”

A random act of kindness

NCC Assistant Professor of Photography Carolyn Monastra reached out to CARE for Sandy after finding damaged photographs during a photo shoot on Staten Island.

Monastra, who was shooting photographs for her project “The Witness Tree,” noticed two damaged wedding photographs drying on the windshield of a car.

Monastra offered to restore the images but the car’s owner said they weren’t his. However, he said he had his own damaged photographs.

“So he runs in the house and gets me a picture of his father and uncle from like the 1950s,” Monastra said.

Monastra  had originally planned doing a a photo restoration event with the Arts Department at NCC when she discovered CARE for Sandy.

“I found them and contacted Lee,” Monastra said. “And first I became approved as one of their retouchers and then I started talking to my department, the Art Department about wanting to do this event. So we got a lot of support and we started planning this about six weeks ago, I think. And, you know, it’s finally here.”

Restoring pictures with CARE for Sandy

Restoring pictures with CARE for Sandy