Between 1972 and 1977, the fledgling Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the US commissioned 70 photographers to document the country’s state of environment. They set out across coal mines, landfills and manufacturing zones of the then industrial US, and explored the nooks and crannies of big cities. The result was a collection of 15,000 photographs showing pools of toxic sludge and power stations belching out fumes and so on. The photographers also documented the era’s trends, fashions and cultural shifts. EPA dubbed the project Documerica. Now after four decades, a selection of these images is on show at the National Archives in Washington, DC until September 8.
“It’s the last great federal photography project of the 20th century,” Bruce Bustard, curator of the show, told Economist. Revitalising Documerica’s vision, EPA has recently embarked on a project of photographing the same scenes to contrast the changes to the environment over the years.
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