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THE FOG, ER SMOG, OF MEMORIES
March 6th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

"Children play in the yard of Ruston home, while a Tacoma smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue. Ruston, Washington, August 1972."

In the 1970s, those early heady days of the U.S. ecology movement, the federal Environmental Protection Agency sent photographers into the field, to document environmental problems and programs around the country.

As it happened, these photographers also captured many moments of life across these United States.

Ninety of these images are in “Searching for the Seventies,” an exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The exhibit opens March 8 runs through Sept. 9.

"Housing adjacent to a U.S. Steel plant. Birmingham, Alabama, July 1972."

The EPA project, known at the time as “DOCUMERICA,” was inspired by the depression-era Farm Security Administration photography project. Just as that project translated the “dust bowl” and other phrases into real lives, DOCUMERICA was meant to show the daily realities behind pollution, gas shortages, and dump sites.

"Michigan Avenue, Chicago (couple on street), July 1975."

And, just like the Farm Security Administration photos did, the EPA photos have become an historic glimpse into their time, bringing the past to vibrant life.

"Two girls smoking pot during an outing in Cedar Woods near Leakey, Texas. (Taken with permission.) One of nine pictures near San Antonio. Leakey, Texas, May 1973."

(Cross-posted with Unusual Life.)


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