The tsunami caused by Japan’s earthquake in March washed away whole towns, swallowed cars, and drowned thousands of people.
But as the country heals and rebuilds, it is now able to turn its focus to the smaller casualties, such as family photographs and photo albums that were lost and muddied in the waves.
The Guardian reports that Fugifilm employees, former employees and their families have gathered to gather to salvage the lost photos, many of which look beyond recognition, and return them to their rightful owners.
It’s not an easy process — washing, peeling, brushing, drying, stripping away mold, and more steps go into getting a photo back to the way it once was without destroying it.
Some photos are beyond help, and these are bundled together with the other photos with which they were found, or returned to the place they were discovered.
HiLoBrow writes that the salvage effort has been as successful as it can possible be. “If the physical traces are strong enough, if the photos belong to someone still living, if the survivors stop by, if, by paging through the collections, they locate their lost markers, then a memory can be returned to its rightful owner.”
It’s a lot of “ifs,”but for the simple “thank yous” the volunteers receive when they do find photos owners, they think it’s worth it.
Watch the Guardian’s video below: