3:31 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Exhibit Captures Relationship Between 1970s America, the Environment

Children play in yard of Ruston home, while Tacoma smelter stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue.
Credit Gene Daniels/National Archives / Records of the Environmental Protection Agency

Photographs of Americana taken through an environmental lens are on display as part of a new exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The photos were taken as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA Photography Project, and show life in the 1970s, often with an environmental bent.

Industrial smog blacks out homes adjacent to North Birmingham pipe plant. This is the most heavily polluted area of the city.
Credit Leroy Woodson / National Archives

Some of the photos--seen through the lens of 40 years of stricter environmental laws--are strange in 2013. There's a weirdly futuristic electric car, smoggy skies and children playing on a beach next to a chemical plant. But some of the photos could have just as easily been taken today, albeit with some updates to hair and fashion. There's a woman in the Ohio coalfields holding a jar of dirty water, a Kentucky coal miner with black lung disease, and a shot of houses in the footprint of the cooling towers of the John Amos plant outside Charleston, WV.

The exhibit runs through September 8, and is free and open to the public.

See some of the other photos here and here.