You can replace that waterlogged sofa. But when photographs are hit by floodwaters, those recorded memories could be lost forever.

Photo restoration experts in New Jersey are advising victims of Ida to make moves now so that their damp photos have a shot at surviving. Act soon and carefully enough, they say, and you may not even need professional help.

"The problem with flooding is, a lot of times the flooding involves dirt and grime and chemicals," said Joseph Lypowy, owner of Lypowy Studio Photography & Video, located in Toms River. "Those things have to be washed off."

"True photographs" — like the ones developed in darkrooms or at photo-print locations — aren't instantly killed by water, Lypowy noted. But if you have a way to dry them off — by dabbing, not rubbing — you should do it sooner rather than later, he said.

The older the photo, the better the odds that it was printed in a way that's essentially waterproof, he said. Photos you print at home on paper won't be as lucky.

People who can't worry about their photos right now, because there are even more serious flooding issues to handle, he added, can attempt to freeze the photos until they're ready to focus on restoration.

Lenni Gabriele, owner of Old Photos Repaired in Red Bank, has already fielded numerous calls from residents impacted by Ida — mostly folks who've never had any prior experience with floods.

"I had a woman in tears," Gabriele said. "She had her mother's wedding album from the 40s. The album was underwater."

Gabriele has an appointment with the woman to bring the photographs back to life.

Residents will be much worse off if they've kept their storm-impacted photographs in piles or albums, Gabriele said. So, take them out of their envelopes or shoeboxes before the emulsifier turns into a glue-like substance.

"Fronts are going to stick to backs and you're going to pull them apart," she said.

Gabriele is still doing photo-restoration work connected to Sandy in 2012.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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