Jennifer Esneault’s large home freezer is no longer full of food. Instead, it’s full of photos.
The Baton Rouge photographer is one of many in the city hoping to salvage and restore family photos damaged in August’s flooding.
“While [residents are] worried about gutting their house and whether or not they’ve got flood insurance, their pictures should be the last thing they should be worried about,” Esneault says. “So I just kind of took that on.”
She sifts through a pile of photos in a shoebox. The images vary from graduation celebrations to birds soaring over a beach to grandparents on the lawn of a family home.
Esneault gets calls almost daily from families looking for some way to save the memories they’ve lost. Many of the families she’s helped have been previous clients, or they’ve heard about what she’s doing through word of mouth. Most of the photos Esneault works with were taken on film, and the families have no duplicates or digital back-ups.
“It was important enough for somebody at one point to stop and say, ‘This is important,’” she says of the photos. “I really want to honor that moment in time.”
With the families’ permission, Esneault is planning to transform the photos she can’t save into art pieces. Some of the images were so badly damaged it’s hard to tell what they’re even pictures of, but the photographer thinks the colors are beautiful. She will give some of the colored photos their own displays in shadow boxes. She’s turning the black and white images into feathers for a pair of wings in an art piece. The wings are meant to symbolize the families who were stuck on their roofs and wanted to fly away, Esneault says.
The photographer has started a blog to showcase the photos, What the Water Gave Us. She says she named the blog after the sense of community the flood brought back to Baton Rouge.
“That’s really what the spirit of … Louisiana is about,” she says. “We’re not big fighters, and that’s why this summer was so horrible … because it didn’t feel like Baton Rouge anymore. It felt like some other place that you watch on the news. And this came along and it gave that [sense of community] back to us.” whatthewatergaveus.com
Other Baton Rouge photographers are joining the effort to salvage flood-damaged photos.
Esneault says she’s working to create a database on her blog where flood victims can find available photographers. Here is a list of just a few photographers in the city who are helping salvage and restore photos. Know of a photographer who should be on this list? Email us at [email protected] and we can add them to our online story.
Janie Davis | roguepixelsphotography.net
Kimberly Viator | rockthecamera.com
Megan Ousset | meganoussetphotography.com
Nikki Vidrine | facebook.com/nicolevrestoreandscanningservices/
This story was originally published in the October issue of 225 Magazine.