Photographer Keeps Negatives Saving Family History

Ocean Springs photographer Judy Howell makes a living trying to get people to smile for the camera, but now they have a new reason to smile.

Unbeknownst to her clients, Howell has saved the negatives from every single photo she's taken for the past three decades.

Now people who thought they'd lost their most precious memories to Katrina are finding out they can reclaim their family history.

For Ann Schmidt, a photograph is like a record of her family's life.

After the hurricane destroyed her home, she thought her precious photos were gone forever.

"We lost everything in our house," she said. "Had we felt more vulnerable during the storm we would have taken things but we lost all our family photo albums and at least a dozen of them."

Then Schmidt found out that family photographer Judy Howell had been saving negatives.

Schmidt says she "didn't have any idea. The pictures she'd taken of my children were back in the mid 70s and early 80s which was quite a few years ago now when I saw her and she told me she had all the film I was quite excited, elated. Losing those pictures were a great loss to my family."

Judy Howell says not long after she started her business back in 1973, some clients lost their pictures in a house fire.

So for the past 30 plus years she's held on to thousands of negatives just in case.

She says she had not told most people about it until Katrina.

"I've had a lot of people call just to be sure I have them," said Howell. "They say we don't have a house now to put them in but want to be sure they're there. So all the ones who've called I've gotten their negatives out, and I have them in a separate place."

While her clients negatives were safe in her studio, most of Howell's photographs were at her home which got 6 feet of water.

She says the pain of losing her own photos is comforted by the delight of others.

"They're thrilled and it makes me happy that I can help them like that," she said.

If you think Judy Howell may have your family's photos among her thousands of negatives call 228-424-7454. She is giving a 20 percent discount on reprints.