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Tag: documerica

Documerica: Seeing the Seventies More Clearly

Today’s blog post comes from Hannah Fenster, summer intern with the Public Affairs Office.

Ever wonder why your photographs of the 1970s are slowly changing color? Hint: They don’t want makeovers or need more fuchsia in their lives. More likely, their aging appearances come from the original film type and from years of storage at room temperature.

The National Archives used an elaborate process to produce top-quality, fully restored photographs for the exhibit “DOCUMERICA: Searching for the Seventies,” which runs through September 8. The National Archives stores the original images as slides in cold storage to minimize the color shift.

I spoke with Michelle Farnsworth, digital imaging technician at the National Archives, to discuss the process of resurrecting the photos for exhibition.

To transfer the images from stored slides to shiny exhibit frames, technicians began by scanning the slides into a digitized format at the Digital Imaging Lab at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

The scanned versions underwent some preliminary color editing. “We weren’t trying to make them look punchier,” says Farnsworth, “we were trying to make them neutral, to match what we saw on the slides or the documents.”

Amanda Perez, exhibit and graphic designer, then enhanced the color and contrast, cleaned up dust spots and scratches, and further neutralized what color shifts had occurred over the years. Editing to this extent … [ Read all ]

Jack Corn, DOCUMERICA Photographer

Jack Corn, a retired photojournalist and professor, came to visit the “Searching for the Seventies” exhibit here at the National Archives, bringing along his family and one of his former students. Why? He was one of the 70 photographers commissioned by the EPA to take photos for the DOCUMERICA project. (His photos from the assignment are available on our Online Public Access research site, as well as in this Flickr set.) I was lucky enough to interview him and his student, D.C. photojournalist Scott Robinson, over the phone.

Starting in 1961, Jack made a point of visiting the Appalachian Mountains to take photographs. He went at least once a year, focusing specifically on one town. As such, he was perfectly prepared to photograph the area for DOCUMERICA.

At the time he went on assignment for the EPA, Jack was working at The Tennessean, based in Nashville. He was on an extended break so that he could focus on photography outside the confines of the newspaper office. “I think I even took a week of vacation time,” he added.

The DOCUMERICA assignment was different from others because he didn’t have a reporter with him. “It made it harder, because reporters take notes and ask questions for you.” Further, his subjects were sometimes “suspicious” of the work he was doing. “They understand when you say … [ Read all ]

Helvetica and Supergraphics: The Design Behind Our New Exhibit

I sat down with Amanda Perez, exhibit and graphic designer at the National Archives, to talk about her  work for our new “Searching for the Seventies” exhibit. Halfway through the interview, we were joined by Dan Falk, visual information specialist and the audiovisual and structural designer for the exhibit.

Amanda’s first step in designing the exhibit was to look for inspirational images. Some of the most intriguing came from the pages of 1970s home design articles, found on an independent blog. What struck Amanda were the supergraphics—large wall decorations popular in the seventies—present in most of the images.

“I remembered them from my childhood, from my parents’ friends’ houses,” she said.

In the exhibit, the supergraphics are meant to create a seventies vibe without detracting from the photographs, which are the true focus.

Amanda chose three theme colors as the exhibit’s three-part organization emerged from the planning process.

First came “Ball of Confusion,” derived from a 1970 song by The Temptations. Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970, inspired the color purple in the exhibit. According to Amanda, “Purple became a sort of theme.”

When she started looking at warmer colors to balance the purple, she knew that they had to use orange because it was such a staple of the seventies. Orange also fit well with the “Everybody is a Star” section of the exhibit.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Vagabond Goatee

It gets harder to find worthy examples of bearded and mustachioed Americans in our holdings after the first decades of the 20th century, when facial hair went out of fashion. Fortunately for us, we can look into a decade known for groovy facial hair: the 1970s.

This is one of our most popular images, though I wonder if it’s because of the puppy and the patchwork pants rather than the scraggly goatee. The original caption identifies the man as a hitchhiker on Route 66. He certainly seems pretty relaxed despite standing barefoot on rocks that I presume are hot from the Arizona sun.

This photograph is unusual for more reasons than its retro facial hair. It was taken by Charles O’Rear, who was a photographer in the DOCUMERICA project launched by the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971. Photographers were assigned by geographic region to document what they saw destroying America’s landscape and natural resources: mining, air pollution, garbage.

Charles O’Rear, however, had a slightly more cheerful assignment. At one point during his time as a contributing photographer, he was sent to the healthiest place in America at that time: southeastern Nebraska. His work there documents an area that had the lowest death rates for American white males.

O’Rear went on to work as a photographer for National Geographic for 25 years. But you might recognize one … [ Read all ]

The Legacy of the 1970s Energy Crisis

If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on the Beltway, you know Americans love their cars, trucks, and motorcycles. So when fuel shortages occur, like in the 1970s, energy policy becomes a hotly debated issue.

Federal energy policy first became a major political priority during the energy crisis of the 1970s. In response to gasoline shortages and a series of petroleum embargos, Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter each took steps to readdress America’s energy policy. Through legislative action and an array of executive orders, the Federal Government established the Energy Research and Development Administration, Federal Energy Administration, and Office of Energy Programs.

This rapid expansion of Federal energy functions eventually compelled Congress to pass the Department of Energy Organization Act. The act, which was signed into law by President Carter on August 4, 1977, consolidated the various Federal energy agencies into a singule cabinet-level department. The new Department of Energy’s primary tasks were to promote a safe and dependable energy system, manage the nation’s nuclear facilities, and facilitate scientific research.

Since the 1970s, the Energy Department has continued to address energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through research, development, and demonstration. In 2001, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy was created to assist in the development of alternative energy sources, such as biomass and biofuels, solar power, wind power, and hydrogen fuel cells. These initiatives … [ Read all ]