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Massachusetts photographers help Hurricane Harvey victims make new memories

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

From left: Sharon Reiley, Jessica McDaniel, and Bill McCarty are part of group of photographers who are traveling to Texas this weekend to photograph people who lost their family photographs in Hurricane Harvey.

By Globe Staff 

A family portrait can seem like a luxury when everything else has been lost.

It can also serve as a fresh start.

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A dozen photographers hailing from Massachusetts, Texas, and Wisconsin are offering their services for free Saturday at a church in Friendswood, Texas, to families still recovering after Hurricane Harvey. The volunteers will take new family portraits for those who lost most if not all of their family photos in the storm.

Milton photographer Jessica McDaniel was scheduled to fly out Friday with photographers Sharon Reiley, from North Attleborough, and Bill McCarty, from East Weymouth, to offer their skills at the event, called “Focusing Forward.”

“This is a little thing that could make somebody have a little bit of joy,” said McDaniel, 42. “Family photos can be expensive. You’re not going to throw money at that if you’re worried about your meals or you’re worried about your furniture.”

Event organizer Mike Fox, a photographer out of Pearland, Texas, hopes the pictures can serve as a way to make new memories in the midst of devastation.

An estimated 85 families have already signed up to have their pictures taken in 15-minute sessions, Fox said. Then volunteers will print out the families’ favorite images.

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“I’ve got family portraits up on my walls at home, and I can look back at my family as they’ve grown from small children,” said Fox, 50. “We can’t replace all of those old memories but at least we can get them something back up on the wall.”

Reiley knows firsthand how photos can help in the healing process.

“I got into photography after I had lost my son. He was stillborn,” said Reiley, 42. “Photography was a way for me to make a change in my life that would do something meaningful for people and give them something they would cherish. It’s a way for me to have my son’s life matter.”

Jean Ciampi, 53, of League City, Texas, dealt with 6 inches of water when her house flooded during Hurricane Harvey and considers herself lucky. She moved many cherished possessions upstairs, including photos. So Ciampi is volunteering on Saturday to help those who lost far more.

“It’s an ongoing 24-7 struggle,” Ciampi said. “Every time you turn around, you find something else you’ve lost. When you lose the photographs or the keepsakes that just cannot be replaced, that is devastating to a heart that’s already broken.”


Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com.