America in the 1970s

During this week, In Focus magazine is running their Documerica Series. This photography series is part of the Documerica Project started by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s to document and show the effects of modern life on the environment over the course of several years. However, while photographers were primarily supposed to get images showing the effects of pollution and urban sprawl, they were also encouraged to capture daily life for the average American. This week, In Focus is sharing some of their photos on their website.

These photos are a fascinating glimpse at what was a very interesting time in American history. The turbulent days of the late 1960s were just behind us and the beginnings of the digital revolution were just being created. Transistors, microchips, and data compression technology were just over the horizon. Though there were difficult times in the 1970s with stagflation and petroleum shortages in the latter part of the decade, for the most part, the 1970s were a time of renewal in the arts and sciences. They were also an era where the old met the new as the last ranchers faded away and the new pioneers continued on with trips to the moon. Several of the photos from New York reflect this where you can see the classic era skyscrapers, such as the Empire State Building, standing against the same backdrop as the more modern era skyscrapers like the Twin Towers. Mining and manufacturing were still large bases in the American economy but they had changed drastically from the days of men with pickaxes and hammers to become more mechanized.

Thus far, In Focus has shown us photos from New York and from the Southwest in their Documerica Series. We’re looking forward to seeing more in this series from them as they bring back the look and feel of life during the shifting 70s.

— da Bird

Image via In Focus. Taken by Dan McCoy/NARA