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Our Environment, Then and Now

2012 November 15

By Christina Catanese

Have you ever wondered what the places around you looked like 40 years ago?  Like, how long has that building been there?  Has there always been this much trash in this river?  Did there used to be more open space in this area?  We’ve asked these questions, too.

From the Documerica Archives: “The Polluted Schuykill River and Center City In Background, September 1973.”

From the Documerica Archives: “The Polluted Schuykill River and Center City In Background, September 1973.”

That’s why EPA is reviving Documerica, a photo documentary that captured American life and environmental conditions shortly after EPA’s creation in 1970.  We’re not only bringing back the old photos, we’re giving you a chance to give it a modern twist.

In Documerica, photojournalists throughout the country photographed subjects of environmental concern, resulting in a collection of over 15,000 images that gave a snapshot of our environment in the 1970s.

Now, through a photo project called State of the Environment, you have an opportunity to get behind the lens and submit photos that document our lives and our planet today.  You can try to match pictures taken 40 years ago with a current shot to mark the changes in your environment, or submit new photos that capture our current decade.  Find out here how to participate in this challenge and submit your images through our Flickr page!

You can also check out a selection of the Documerica photos as well as some of the State of the Environment photos submitted so far in a traveling exhibit called Documerica Returns.  There are a few places you can catch the exhibit in the southeastern Pennsylvania area in the next few weeks:

  • Franklin & Marshall College, atrium of Steinman College Center, now through November 20th
  • EPA Philadelphia Regional Office Public Information Center, 1650 Arch Street, November 26th-30th
  • Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, December 3rd-14th
From the Documerica Archives: “Oil Spill On Schuykill River, July 5, 1972, Following Hurricane Agnes, Covered Greenery On River Bank, July 1972)”

From the Documerica Archives: “Oil Spill On Schuykill River, July 5, 1972, Following Hurricane Agnes, Covered Greenery On River Bank, July 1972)”

I’m most curious to see photos of our waterways, then and now.  In the Philly area, I’d love to see a match of the pictures of the Schuylkill River in this post.

What places inspire you to grab your camera and capture the state of our world today?  What did you find when you browsed the Documerica archives of photos near you 40 years ago – were there any surprises?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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.

One Response leave one →
  1. Edith permalink
    November 28, 2012

    These photos will give us the opportunity to see how we have changed the environment around us for such a short period of time. Most of us will be surprised to see how rapidly the world around us is changing.

    Handy Moves Reviews

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