Newspaper Photographers Use Skills To Help Katrina Victims

A trio of Pennsylvania newspaper photographers are using their skills to help Katrina victims. On Friday, the photographers - Rich Kennedy, Bill Johnson and Art Gentile - took free portraits of Hancock County families, many of whom lost all their pictures in the storm.

When Rich Kennedy came to Mississippi back in August, it was as a photojournalist covering Katrina. Kennedy says by the time he left, he knew he wanted to do something more. Now he's back with two other photographers to help.

Frances and Troy Rutledge have been married for nearly 60 years. They have many wonderful memories, but few photographs.

"I had the pictures of children down the hall,"said Frances Rutledge. "The graduation pictures with the large frames, real wide. I lost every one of them."

The three photographers want to ease the pain of families who lost their precious photos to Katrina with a gift of a new family portrait. Rich Kennedy says while he was on assignment here, he heard a story that touched his heart.

"The only photo she had of her deceased brother was a photocopy of his obituary, and it dawned on me at that time that we were too busy doing our job as journalists," he said. "It dawned on me then that a lot of people lost photographs."

The Pennsylvania photographers say it's nice to be using their skills in a different way.

Bill Johnson said, "We're usually at crimes scenes or newspaper related fires and stuff like that. It's nice to turn it around and do this other portion of photography where you're giving something back to people. Using the skills that you earn money with all your life, but doing it in a different way now."

Barbara Powell and her family just moved back into their Bay St. Louis home. And they've already picked a place to hang their new photo.

Powell said, "It was an opportunity and a good thought for these people to come and give us back something."

The photographers say 150 families signed up to have their photos taken over the next three days. The project is part of the Bucks-Mont Katrina Relief Program.