Between 1971 and 1977, the Environmental Protection Agency payed freelance photographers $150 dollars a day to document, in a very broad sense, the environment. Now, after almost forty years, thousands of the photographs are available here, with many more of the nearly 17,000 available through the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (warning: the ARC can be cumbersome.)
These pictures are fantastic and illustrate that the 70’s were about much “more than disco and streaking.” A lot of the photographs document smog, sprawl and the effects of the gas shortage, but the intentionally broad definition of environment lead photographers to capture a variety of images that you might not expect. For instance, would you expect some guy washing his Frito-Lay truck or expect what looks a lot like the parking surrounding the Hollywood Bowl, but is actually a parking lot in downtown Cincinnati to be the results of a government-sponsored photography project? Gifford D. Hampshire directed the project, and intended for the project to continue in perpetuity, but the project was strangled in 1977 by budget cuts and politics.