Documerica was a simple concept. In the 1970s, a newly created Environmental Protection Agency hired a bunch of freelancers to document environmental issues around the country. It wasn’t the first time the government had subsidized photography. A few decades prior, the Farm Security Administration sponsored a similar program to catalog the Great Depression.
But in some ways, it was unprecedented. For one, enthusiasm within the environmental movement, which catalyzed the creation of the EPA, was at its height — which meant interest in (and support for) this kind of program was more palpable than ever.
Plus, Gifford Hampshire, the man who created Documerica, basically gave photographers free rein to shoot whatever they wanted. (Imagine, photographers: Getting paid to hit the road and capture America in your own, personal way.)
Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives