Documerica

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"Dr. Ben V. Branscomb uses a simple tire pump as a breathing aid for a red lung victim. Dr. Branscomb is a leading figure in the fight against air pollution in Birmingham (July 1972) by LeRoy Woodson
"The red-orange smoke characteristic of the steel plant blurs the city skyline" *August 1972) by LeRoy Woodson

Documerica was a photographic project to document "subjects of environmental concern". The newly-formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contracted with 70 professional photographers to gather more than images from across the country and in various other nations between 1972 and 1977.

The EPA's Gifford Hampshire led the project. Participating photographers were assigned to general geographic regions, but given wide latitude to select subjects. More than 80,000 images were submitted to the agency, which selected just over 22,000 to be preserved. The photographers were compensated at a rate of $150 per day for their work, plus expenses. They were required to waive copyright for the works chosen for public use, with the others returned to them as their own property. Of the images held by the agency, only a fraction were publicly shown. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. hosted the first such exhibition in 1972, highlighting 155 photographs from the early days of the project. Other collections were prepared for regional exhibition. A larger group was put on display at the EPA's headquarters in the unfinished Waterside Mall. The National Archives has digitized more than 15,000 Documerica images for online viewing.

On behalf of Documerica, photographer LeRoy Woodson (1944–2015) photographed people and scenes in Birmingham in July and August 1972. In addition to documenting heavy smog, industrial emissions and polluted waterways, Woodson also collected images of everyday life, including scenes at 6th Avenue Baptist Church and the Alabama State Fair. He also documented the work of pulmonologist Ben Branscomb at UAB.

References

  • Bustard, Bruce I. (2013) Searching for the Seventies: The Documerica Photography Project from the National Archives. Giles Ltd. ISBN 9781907804151

External links