OCTOBER Exhibit:
DOCUMERICA Photography Series


 

From 1972 through 1977 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired photographers and writers to document the degradation of our shared environments. Over 80,000 photographs were produced and now 15,000 have been made publicly available in the National Archives. 

For weeks we’ve spent time sorting through the archives to find images that we feel capture not only the vast extent of pollution at that time, but the bold, creative ways that Americans were able to innovate and repair their land.

 

  Caption:  A city farmer tends to his vegetables in the Fenway Gardens administered by the Fenway Civic Association. An outgrowth of the victory gardens of WWII, the association has 600 members who cultuvate a total of 425 garden plots in these five acres of metropolitan Boston.  Photographer:  Ernst Halberstadt  Date Created:  1973 August

Caption: A city farmer tends to his vegetables in the Fenway Gardens administered by the Fenway Civic Association. An outgrowth of the victory gardens of WWII, the association has 600 members who cultuvate a total of 425 garden plots in these five acres of metropolitan Boston.
Photographer: Ernst Halberstadt
Date Created: 1973 August


 

When the EPA was first created it was not considered a political project. Unchecked land development, urban decay, and persistent air, water, and noise pollution were all so incredibly apparent that there was strong bipartisan support for the creation of the agency. 

The DOCUMERICA photography series was one of the very first EPA projects. It began in the early  1970’s to document the state of the environment at the time and the way that citizens interacted with their local environments, for better or worse. 

More than 100 professional photographers were paid $150 a day, given as much film as they could use, and sent around the country to document specific instances of pollution as well as the overall effects of unregulated industrialization on actual people. 

This unique approach went beyond simply documenting problems— it attempted to take a holistic view of the complicated relationships between the people and their land. This allowed photographers to examine where and how we live, and the role of urban planning and public spaces because, as was the project’s motto, “everything is connected to everything else.”