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Tag: EPA

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.

"Homes of coal miners who live in Tazewell County, Virginia near Richlands, in the southwestern tip of the state." (ARC 556341)

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 … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Vagabond Goatee

Hitchhiker with his dog, "Tripper," on U.S. 66, May 1972. Photograph by Charles O'Rear for the EPA (549112; 412-DA-6626).

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.… [ Read all ]

It’s not the Gulf, it’s the Schuylkill

Oil is washing up onto the shores of Louisiana and Florida. But these are not the only American shores to suffer environmental catastrophe from oil spills.

In 1972, Hurricane Agnes took an unusual turn over the East Coast. After passing over Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, the storm swung back over the Atlantic and regained strength. It moved back over New York state on June 22, and on June 23 the hurricane was hovering over Pennsylvania.

Heavy rain meant flooding, and the surge of water hit cities in upstate New York and Pennsylvania hard. For the Keystone State, there was $2.3 billion in damage caused by flooding and 50 deaths. Shamokin, PA, had 18 inches of rain.

The rising water damaged more than cities.

The flooding released 6 to 8 million gallons of oil into the Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River, coating trees and riverbed grasses. In this photo from the Environmental Protection Agency (Record Group 412) Documerica Project, you can see the reddish brown sludge on the banks.

Has the river recovered? Thirty years later, the river is an important resource, with 10% of Pennsylvania’s population relying on the Schuylkill River for all or part of their water supply.

But even if the water is drinkable, the river remains in danger.

Oil spills are not a thing of the past. This month, a fire … [ Read all ]