iPhoto stumped: External HD Photo library thinks it's empty. How to retrieve photos?

Feb 14, 2015
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OSX Yosemite 10.10
IPhoto 9.6
Connected via USB to a Seagate 500GB External HD, Max OS Extended Journaled. Capacity 499gb, available 56.74gb (I also use this time to back up via timemachine)

Hello, I'm hoping you can help otherwise my wife will have a serious nervous breakdown:) This question has been asked before, but the solutions haven't worked for me, so I'm hoping someone can help me dig deeper.

My iPhoto library is stored in an EHD, not on the computer. This is the default library that is opened every time, and there is no other library. Yesterday I started getting the "empty" iphoto home screen. This happens whether I open it from iPhoto, or by clicking on the library file itself. (by empty I mean the app opens and I have a message "to get started with iphoto, do one of the following, as if there were no pictures and I was using iphoto for the first time.)

So somehow it's not able suddenly to "see" the usual library file, which is still in the same location, and still 283gigs full of images.

I've tried rebooting and reconnecting the EHD to a different slot, to no avail.

I also tried opening the application while pressing option+command. (after first backing up the library to a different EHD)

When I selected to "repair the database", it thinks for 2 minutes and then tells me it has found the 195 thousand pictures, would I like to import...

BUT, when I proceed by selecting YES after thinking for only 2 seconds or so, it opens up the "empty iPhoto" screen, with no further explanation. As if the process had been interrupted somehow.

I restarted the application and then tried the more serious sounding "Rebuild the database". It starts to think, and a little progress tracker window pops up that says "examining database", but after only 2-3 seconds, it all stops and I get the empty iPhoto screen yet again.

I'm out of ideas, and would greatly appreciate your help.

I've checked the external hard drive with disk utility and it doesn't appear to have any issues.

Thank you in advance!

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