Thursday, April 21, 2011


The View from Dead Horse Point: Canyonlands and the Colorado River, 05/1972
Park Ranger Lends a Hand to Motorcycle Rider Who Can't Manage His Bike on the Steep Road Elephant Hill, Needles Section, 05/1972
Ruts Left by Off - Road Vehicles in Violation of Park Rules. The Desert Surface Is Fragile; These Tracks Hasten Erosion. Devils Dune Area, Needles Section, 05/1972
Rock Formations in "The Doll House," a Very Remote Section of the Canyonlands, 05/1972
Backpacking in the Maze, a Wild and Rugged Region in the Heart of the Canyonlands, 05/1972
Documerica Photographer, David Hiser, at Dead Horse Point, 05/1972

First, a little background: in the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to travel around America and document everyday life, agency activities, and anything relating to environmental problems. It was called the Documerica Project. The U.S. National Archives has catalogued about 15,000 images, and I just discovered that a portion of them are available on the USNA's Flickr page. Jackpot!

For his part, photographer David Hiser (that's him in the last photo) chose the American southwest. He hiked around Utah's Canyonlands National Park, capturing both the magnificent landscape and its tragic abuses. The third photo shows ruts left by illegal off-road vehicles, but there was also dumping and rampant graffiti (over Native American pictographs! Idiots!).

The record of images created by this project is breathtaking, not only historically but culturally as well. You can surely expect to see more from this collection here in the future.

Photographs by David Hiser, from the U.S. National Archives on Flickr. Read more about the Documerica Project here.


those tricks said...

This is so cool.
Oh to have a government with these types of creative archiving initiatives today! And the money to pay for it... :/

Liza said...

I know! It was meant to be a sort of sequel to the Farm Security Administration's photography project of the 1930s. So many of the images that came out of that initiative remain iconic, and I wish that Documerica had gotten the same sort of attention. More public support means more projects like this!

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