In the early '70s, just after the birth of EPA and the environmental movement, the agency hired freelance photographers to record the state of the environment and efforts to improve it. Documerica ultimately collected tens of thousands of photos that serve the agency and the public as a visual baseline for comparing how our environment looked then with how it looks now and in the future. By 1974, Documerica had produced more than 81,000 photographs by more than 100 photographers. The strongest 22,000-plus images were catalogued by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and made available to publications nationwide. About 15,000 of these images are now online.
View Documerica photos:
Tossing a frisbee on a smoke-filled street in North Birmingham, AL (July 1972; Leroy Woodson, photographer) Hollywood freeway (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Smog (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) The Kaiser Aluminum Plant smokestack, behind the Catholic church, belches fumes over the residential area in the Chalmette section of New Orleans (March 1973; John Messina, photographer) Fresno County, California does not provide a dumping place for chemical containers. This rancher's pile of chemical drums has grown over a 3-year period. (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Sulfur-dusting of grape vines near Fresno (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Hillside dump near Sonora, California (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Pile of wrecked autos at Klean Steel Co., Long Beach, California (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Spilled sulphur on ground at T-M-T Chemical Company, Fresno County, California (May 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Fish killed by water pollution, Grand Lake, Colorado (June 1972; Bill Gillette, photographer) Oil in water of this canyon near Lake Powell, Utah, is the result of an oil spill on the San Juan River more than 200 miles away. (October 1972; David Hiser, photographer) Effluent from pulp mills pollutes the Columbia River near Longview, Washington. (September 1972; Gene Daniels, photographer) Sum along shore near Lake Tahoe, Nevada (May 1972; Belinda Rain, photographer)
State of the Environment (SotE) Photo Project
From 2011 through 2013, we revitalized the Documerica project and invited the public to submit photos of the state of the environment.