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. The agency 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 1930s 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 favorites:
Jet Zooms Over Southwestern Side of Neptune Road, Boston. (Photo: Michael Philip Manheim for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
There Is Some Local Opposition to Stripping the Land in Southeastern Ohio. Most People, However, Are Employed by the Coal Companies and Are Afraid Any Demands for Reform Will Cost Them Their Jobs. Off Route 800. 10/1973 (Photo: Erik Calonius for The U.S. National Archive/flickr)
Anxious Youngsters Begin the Chase in a Greased Pig Contest at the Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company First Annual Picnic Held at a Tennessee Valley Authority Lake near Jasper and Chattanooga, Tennessee. (08/1974) (Photo: Jack Corn for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
Interior of Graffiti-Marked Subway Car New York. 05/1973 (Photo: Erik Calonius for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
Children in Fort Smith Are Learning That Protecting the Environment Will Take More Than Awareness ... 06/1972 ... Fort Smith, Arkansas (Photo: Jim Olive for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
Miners Line Up to Go Into the Elevator Shaft at the Virginia-Pocahontas Coal Company Mine #4 near Richlands, Virginia 04/1974 (Photo: Jack Corn for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
Kayaks on the Upper Reaches of the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire, June 1973. (Photo: Charles Steinhacker for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)
Modern Buildings Tower over the Shanties Crowded Along the Martin Pena Canal ... 02/1973 ... San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: John Vachon for The U.S. National Archives/flickr)