Activist and author blogs about politics, energy and Earth's resources.
Documerica: Photographing the environment of the '70s
In 1971, the EPA hired more than 100 freelance photographers who shot thousands of pictures documenting life, the environment and the people in between.
Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 2:52 PM
At the end of 1971, the EPA started Project Documerica
, a planned 10-year odyssey to document the successes and failures of the agency's work in fighting pollution. They hired more than 100 photographers who struck out for every corner of the country to photograph the environment and how we use and abuse it.
The project was modeled on a similar effort by the Farm Security Administration, which hired freelance photographers in the '30s to capture images of farmers during the Great Depression.
Documerica was always meant to be open to the public for publication, but technological constraints made that hard to achieve in the '70s. This lack of availability was one of the reasons the project was shuttered in 1977, four years before the end of its original 10-year mission. The photos were taken to the National Archives and forgotten, more or less, by the public.
More than 30 years after the photographs were taken, they were given new life on the Web when the National Archives uploaded a large chunk of them to Flickr
. The photos are organized by photographer and are a sheer joy to flip through.
Here are a few of my favorites (you can check out the archive's top picks in their favorites set
Photo by Michael Philip Manheim
Photo by Erik Calonius
Photo by Jack Corn
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