Documerica was a government sponsored photographic project created under the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency. It spanned the years of 1972-1977, helping to shape and define an era of heightened environmental consciousness in the United States. Reminiscent of the Farm Security Administration’s photographic project in the 1930s, Documerica’s mission was to record the impact of modern human life on the environment, echoing the new agency’s goal of “social change through powerful photography.”[1]Though this project has been studied before by scholars interested in environmental photography, concerning the comparison of Documerica to the FSA project, there has been little research that brings together photographic analysis of the images, primary source material from the EPA about the project’s creation and organization, as well as interviews with photographers who worked on the project. Thus, this paper not only draws on existing scholarship within the fields of environmental and photographic history, but it also incorporates an original analysis of the photographs, the experience of photographers, and considers the more complex dialogue that existed between the Documerica office, the EPA, and the larger governmental structures in place at the time.

[1]Steven Hoelscher, “American Environmental Photography,” in The American Environment Revisited: Environmental Historical Geographies of the United States. ed.G.L. Buckley and Y. Youngs (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), 295.


Ng, Margaret Wee Siang




Contemporary Art | Environmental Health | Environmental Studies | Nature and Society Relations | Photography | Public History | Social History | United States History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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