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Looking at the State of Our Environment

2013 April 19

Two years of photos have flowed in from around the world. Inspired by the rediscovery of DOCUMERICA, this Earth Day marks the two year anniversary of EPA’s public call for photographs that together, can show the State of the Environment.

The call has been simple:

Match DOCUMERICA scenes from the United States in the 1970s to have side by side images that could compare the change in our environment.

Photograph the world where you live and travel, to document the current challenges, successes, and way of life in our environment today.

Over 850 of you have submitted more than 2,800 photos documenting our environment today. In celebration of Earth Day, we are sharing some of our favorites. Congratulations to these featured photographers, we look forward to what you share next.

wedell sea

"Chinstrap penguin, Weddell Sea" by Bob Berwyn.

Antelope Canyon

Inside Nature's Sculpture
Antelope Canyon, Navajo Indian Reservation, Arizona
February 15, 2012 by Nina Pollock

rural highway life

Rural highway life in the wheatfields, Edwall, WA taken by Scott Butner.

puerto rico - old and new stacks

Then: Palo Seco Electric Power Plant Across the Bay From San Juan 02/1973 San Juan, Puerto Rico by John Vachon.
Now: Photo of Palo Seco Electric Power Plant close to the town of Cataño across the San Juan Bay from San Juan taken by José E. Maldonado.

papermill - then and now

Jay, ME 1973 & 2012
'Then' Documerica Photo: June, 1973 International Paper Company Mill at Jay on the Androscoggin River 06/1973 by Charles Steinhacker.
June, 2012 photograph by Victoria Hampshire.

Columbia River - Then and Now

'Then' Documerica Photo: April, 1973 Weyerhauser Paper Mills and Reynolds Metal Plant are both located in Longview, on the Columbia River. Intense industrial concentration causes visible pollution by David Falconer.
'Now' State of the Environment Photo: June, 2012 NW Passage of the Columbia River by Craig Leaper.
David Falconer documented the fuel shortage in the west during the 1970s, as well as water pollution in the area at the time. Falconer took photos from April 1973 to May 1974 mainly across the states of Oregon and Idaho.


Mentao Nord camp in Burkina Faso September 21, 2012, by Pablo Tosco, Oxfam International.

Hudson River PCB Contamination

Hudson River PCB Contamination by "WaterBugs174" on Flickr.


'Then' Documerica Photo: 1972 First Experimental House Completed near Taos, New Mexico Using Empty Steel Beer and Soft Drink Cans." by David Hiser.
'Now' State of the Environment Photo: August, 2011 New Dome Earthship" by Dan Conlin.

David Hiser chose his areas of coverage for his DOCUMERICA assignment, intentionally picking areas familiar to him. His photographs capture the striking landscape of America's Desert Southwest.

jarad denton cleanup

DJIBOUTI, Djibouti (Nov. 5, 2011) - U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Reese Ritter, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa surgeon cell senior enlisted leader, rolls a tire up a hill outside the perimeter of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, November 5. Ritter joined more than 200 service members from the camp for the Djibouti Pride Initiative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)

Houston tires

Photo of Lake Houston’s shoreline in Houston, Texas taken on August 18, 2011 by "Lake Houston" on Flickr.


ROAD FROM NEGELE BORENA, Ethiopia (Dec. 7, 2011) – Two girls, carrying books, walk to school along the road from Negele Borena, Ethiopia, December 7. The recently completed bridge in Negele Borena will provide safe passage over the river, which runs through the town. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton.


"Best friends" taken on September 7, 2011 in Mpumalanga Rural, Mpumalanga, ZA by Johann Snyman.

East Boston - Now and Then

East Boston, MA 1973 & 2012 by Michael P. Manheim
Then & Now photographs contributed by former Documerica photographer Michael Philip Manheim.

NY pollution skyline

Then: The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog. View toward the New Jersey Side of the Hudson River. Chester Higgins May 1973.
Now: Thermal Inversion Freedom Tower, March 10, 2013 by ken mccown on Flickr.

Cleveland Windmill

Downtown Cleveland landscape by Tate Davidson.


Where the buffalo roam in South Dakota by “funkymonk1984" on Flickr.

Earth Then and Now

Then Documerica image': Earth, as Seen by Astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt from Apollo 17. December, 1972. Photographer: NASA 1
U.S. National Archives' Local Identifier: NWDNS-412-DA-11344
From: Series: DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, compiled 1972-1977 (Record Group 412).
'Now State of the Environment image' : Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth - Blue Marble
January 25, 2012 by Suomi NPP, NASA Earth-observing research satellite.

Our State of the Environment Photo Project is about how you see our environment. It’s about your backyard, combined with other images around the world. Photos may be submitted to State of the Environment on Flickr through the end of 2013.

For Earth Day this year: share ‘before and after’ photos of community cleanup projects near you. We will share a collection of the change and celebrations in pictures here, and across EPA social media.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

3 Responses
  1. pamela permalink
    April 20, 2013

    the stillness of the picture, just beauty in the making. the ice so beautiful. the lone penguin is beauiful

  2. pamela permalink
    April 20, 2013

    i love pictures that capture a rare moment in time.

  3. heather permalink
    April 22, 2013

    Wow number 15 is a great representation of the changes in air pollution. So many benefits come from switching to cloud storage instead of printing

Comments are closed.