A hero photographer is helping flood victims save their priceless family photos.

The water never reached Kimberly Viator's doorstep because her house sits up on a hill.

But all around her, her Youngsville, Louisiana, neighbors' homes were taking on massive amounts of water.

And all over the state, things are just as bad: Over 40,000 homes are said to have been destroyed or damaged in this year's Louisiana flooding.


An intersection is completely engulfed by floodwater. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"We were so blessed," Kimberly said.

When Kimberly heard of people throwing away their treasured family photos because of water damage, though, she felt her heart break.

Kimberly says a family member was helping out at a neighbor's house, and they started throwing albums and albums of sopping wet photos into the garbage, assuming they were ruined.

"I said, 'No, don't do that, oh my gosh. We can try to salvage them.'"

Kimberly knew she could put her years of photography experience to use. So she posted on her professional Facebook page with a simple message, offering to do anything she could to help save photos for those in need:

For anyone in the flood area here in south Louisiana please do not throw out your wet or damaged photos. I am not just...

Posted by Kimberly Ann Photography on Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Almost immediately, thousands of cries for help filled Kimberly's inbox.

Her first challenge? Carefully thawing and drying a frozen wedding album for a nearby couple.

Removing wet photos from an album like this is tricky work, and it needs to be done fast. Photo by Kimberly Ann Photography, used with permission.

Freezing photos can help keep the images intact while you move them to a place where they can dry out properly, she says. This first batch dried perfectly with no damage, but Kimberly also fixes smearing, smudging, tears, and other kinds of damage by creating high-resolution scans of the photos, manipulating them in Photoshop, and reprinting them on photo paper.

Then there was a woman whose 10-year-old son had passed away just days before the flooding.

"Anything she had of his was still very fresh and so precious," Kimberly said. "And it was all gone."

Except for a handful of photos.

"It's something that, in the scheme ofthings, seems very meaningless compared to someone losing theirhome. But I've had people tell me, 'My home can be rebuilt, but Ican't have another photo taken with my grandfather who passed away. I can't bring back my child who passed away and this was theirlast picture,'" Kimberly said.

"It's almostlike it's the last thing they have."

The sheer number of desperate requests has been far too much for Kimberly to handle alone.

So it's a good thing people all over the world have offered to help.

Every surface in Kimberly's house is covered in photographs. Photo by Kimberly Ann Photography, used with permission.

Placing individual photos around her house, drying them, scanning them into the computer, then editing and reprinting them is massively time-consuming.

But her inspiring work has traveled far and wide. And others want to help.

"I've had an astronomical amount of people from as far as Australia offer to do Photoshop work for me. These are legitimate professionals. ... In every state in the U.S. someone has offered to help."

But that's just the digital work. When it comes to collecting and drying the photos, Kimberly is on her own, for now. She says she's running out of space in her house and is hoping to find free access to a warehouse nearby to continue her work.

The houses and automobiles of Louisiana will eventually be repaired or rebuilt.

But memories aren't so easy to replace. Playing on the floor of their parents home as a kid or being a wide-eyed teen pulling off in their first car — that's what Kimberly is fighting to save.

"There's no one else here to help," she said. "It's neighbor helping neighbor."

With neighbors like her working tirelessly to make a difference, it's hard not to feel hopeful that, one day, things will be OK in Louisiana again.

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