In 1971, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced its DOCUMERICA project, an ambitious endeavor intended to photographically observe Americans, their surroundings, and their daily impact on the environment.
With former National Geographic photo editor Gifford Hampshire at the helm, the project began in earnest in January of 1972, providing freelance photographers a per diem allowance and an unlimited supply of film.
By 1978, when the initiative was dissolved, these shooters had produced more than 20,000 images, nearly 16,000 of which have been digitized by the United States National Archives and can be viewed on their website. The Archives has also published many of these images, sorted by their respective photographers, on Flickr.
The EPA has also created a small collection on Flickr titled DOCUMERICA: Then and Now, which includes side-by-side comparisons of the original images with new ones taken in the last few years, noting the hits and misses of environmental awareness in the past 40 years. (The naturally-occurring color fades on the before images make the images look grimier than they really are, but the differences are still evident.)
By Paul Sorene, Flashbak
Flip Schulke (June 24, 1930, Cornish, New Hampshire; died: May 15, 2008, West Palm Beach, Florida) documented everyday life in the Florida Keys during the 1970s for the US Documerica Project (1971-1977) . A teacher at the University of Missouri’s Columbia School of Journalism, Schulke was aided in his mission by several students.
By Karen Strike | Flashbak
Bethesda Fountain sits on the lower level of the terrace of New York’s City’s Central Park. The pool features Emma Stebbins’ Angel of the Water, a fountain statue unveiled in 1873. Beneath the angels spreading wings are four cherubs representing those archetypal New York values of Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace.
The fountain commemorates the Croton water system, which first brought fresh water to New York City in 1842. The angel carries a lily in her left hand — a symbol of the water’s purity, very important to a city that had previously suffered from a devastating cholera epidemic before the system was established.
On one summer’s day in 1976, Robert Iulo photographed the people around the fountain.
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