A Dog Attacks an Armadillo on a Farm, near Leakey, TX, Marc St. Gill, 1973
When the EPA launched the DOCUMERICA photography project in 1971 to document subjects of environmental concern, Gifford Hampshire, the project’s director, purposefully took a broad approach that included the human. According to the Smithsonian, he instructed his photographers, “Where you see people, there’s an environmental element to which they are connected.” Most of the photographers Hampshire hired were already practiced at making images of people and their surroundings as photojournalists.
The work in DOCUMERICA is tethered to this documentary tradition, which employs a somber aesthetic and the appearance or assumption of objective truth to make a point. Most photographs merely catalog their subjects. The amount of landscape and nature photographs overwhelms, particularly those featuring railway tracks and smokestacks, tourists and vacationers, and process-oriented images recording the activities of other EPA employees.
The quality of the photographs that came out of this massive project varies greatly, perhaps reflecting the different ways in which the photographers worked. Some only visited their assignment locations briefly for special events, while others began or continued an immersive focus on specific communities (e.g. Flip Schulke on his hometown of New Ulm, MN, and Danny Lyon on the barrios of El Paso, TX). Indeed, there are also pockets of more contradictory and difficult work that is uglier and harsher; photography that reflects the distrust or indifference of its human subjects towards the photographer,complicating the notion that photographers should impart a judgment of goodness on the poor and abject through a dignified portrayal.
Deer Entangled in a Barbed Wire Fence Piceance Basin, David Hiser, 1973
Rifle Versus Aspen High School Football Game, David Hiser, 1972
Unprecedented Flooding, New Orleans, LA, John Messina,
Youngsters Wrestle With Greased Pig During a Contest, near Chattanooga, TN, Jack Corn, 1974
A Dust Storm Rises Over Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ, Cornelius M. Keyes, 1972
Ranch Hand Hoists Calf for Branding, Nucla, CO, Bill Gillette, 1972
Woman Performs Cosmetic Surgery on Husband’s Face,
Kansas City, MO, Kenneth Paik, 1973
Fisherman’s Sons Practice Target Shooting, Bayou Gauche, LA, John Messina, 1972
Gamecocks Raised for Fighting, Leakey, TX, Marc St. Gil, 1973
Young Man with his Leg in a Cast, Brooklyn, NY, Danny Lyons, 1974
Billy Watkins Rides Down Mulky Square, Kansas City, MO
Kenneth Paik, 1973
Tennessee - Near Nashville, Davidson County, TN, William Strode, 1972
Labrador Sleeps in the Middle of the Street, Rockport, MA
Deborah Parks, 1973
Sheared Sheep are Marked for Return to Pasture or Slaughter House, Leakey, TX, Marc St. Gil, 1973
El Paso’s Second Ward, El Paso, TX, Danny Lyon, 1972
Traps are Set in the Sakonnet River, Newport, RI, Alexander Hope, 1973
Smoke From Forest Fire, Collier, FL, Gene Daniels, 1973
Fire Department Demonstration, Portland, OR, David Falconer, 1974
Las Vegas Wash Carries Las Vegas Sweage out to Lake Mead, Las Vegas, NV, David Falconer
Abby, who originally hails from Columbia, MO, is a photographer, filmmaker, sound recordist, and lover of road trips. She periodically roams the country, but currently lives and works in New Orleans.
Issue Six is our second in print, and features work by Cristina de Middel, Afabwaje Kurian, Chitra Ganesh, Jayson Musson, and more! Issue Six also comes with limited edition supplements:All of Them Witches, a 32-page risograph-printed comic re-interpreting 1950s Harvey Horror comics, plus volume four of our comics section, Early Edition!