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“We are not done. We still have challenges we have to face,” Jackson said.

The agency last year began a volunteer photography project called State of the Environment. More than 620 people have participated and submitted 1,800 photographs, but only a few are at the same sites at the 1970s project.

Images always have spurred environmental consciousness. A 1980s satellite picture of the ozone hole helped lead to a ban on the chemicals in aerosol cans and refrigerants that were responsible. Underwater video of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 opened the public’s eyes to the gravity of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

But a second Documerica project, with professional photographers, would be impossible today, given budget cuts facing the agency and the wariness of industry barring access by photographers.

Lyntha Scott Eiler, 65, shot photographs for Documerica around her then-home in northern Arizona, as well as one of the early emissions testing sites for automobile exhaust in Hamilton County, Ohio. At the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, Eiler got right down in a strip mine “where the shovels were.”

“They weren’t afraid of the EPA, so it was, `What else you do you want to get a photograph of?,’” Eiler said. “You probably would have a hard time doing that today.”



Documerica photos on Flickr:

National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog:

State of the Environment on Flickr:


Follow Dina Cappiello’s environment coverage on Twitter (at)dinacappiello