In Response: Revisiting the DOCUMERICA Photography Project

On view: June 2 – July 16, 2017
Opening reception: Friday, June 2, 6:00-8:00pm

Participating artists: Shane Anderson | Sarah Christianson | Peter Crabtree | Donna DeCesare | Elizabeth Gritzmacher | Sara Quinn | Stephen Slappe | Terray Sylvester | Linda Wysong


This group exhibition presents the work of nine artists whose image-based work documents the correlation between environmental problems and issues of race, gender, place, age, class, occupation, health care, lifestyle and others. The projects were selected from submissions responding to an open call Newspace announced in early 2017 for work inspired by the Documerica Photography Project—a program initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 to document the human connection to environmental issues.

The contemporary projects selected by Newspace reveal little-known stories of the disproportionate impact that big industry and personal interests have on our environment. They will be presented alongside a digital slideshow of images from the Documerica project. This exhibition comes at a watershed moment not unlike the one from which Documerica was born (the celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970 and the formation of the EPA in 1971) with a similar sense of urgency stemming from an oppositional impetus. The new government has made a clear statement on its position towards the environment with the appointment of an EPA director who has promised a systemic dismantling of the agency’s oversight, and substantial de-regulation of environmental protections. This comes at a period of record global temperatures and frequent natural disasters that have scientifically been linked to climate change. Revisiting Documerica focuses on the significance of cross-national communication and collaboration to provide a consistent picture of the impact our priorities have on the viability of our planet.


In 1971, the newly formed EPA announced the initiative Documerica—a photography project to document the environmental changes the American landscape had undergone leading up to the formation of the agency. This endeavor was modeled after the famed Farm Security Administration (FSA) project (1935-1944) where photographers and writers were hired by the government to document the conditions of rural poverty during the New Deal era. Similarly, Documerica aimed to legitimize the efforts of the EPA in regulating industrial polluters and raising awareness to the individual culpability of American consumers whose wasteful habits were proven to increasingly affect the environment. Seventy photographers – from famous to unknown – were sent on 115 assignments across all 50 states from 1972 to 1978 to create a “visual baseline” from which environmental progress could be charted, and were furthermore tasked with capturing on camera “the human connection” to environmental issues. The resulting 20,000+ images linked issues of race, gender, place, age, class, occupation, health care, lifestyle and more to environmental problems. A slideshow of select images from Documerica will be on view at Newspace during this exhibition.

Read more about Documerica here.

Revisiting DOCUMERICA was initiated by Yaelle Amir, Newspace’s Curator of Exhibitions & Public Programs.


All public programs are free, open to the public, and take place at Newspace (1632 SE 10th Ave), unless otherwise noted.

* Opening reception: Friday, June 2, 6:00-8:00pm

*POSTPONED>> Roundtable Discussion: The Rise & Relevance of Participatory Journalism: with Andrew DeVigal (University of Oregon), Kat Meow García (Open Signal/KBOO), Sara Quinn (Balance Media), and Cameron Whitten (Know Your City).


Lauren Kershner, “A 1970s-Era Federal Photography Program Gets Resurrected in Portland,” Portland Monthly, June 2017 print edition (published online May 15, 2017)

1632 SE 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97214

Gallery hours:
Monday – Thursday 10:00am-10:00pm
Friday – Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm.
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Support for this exhibition generously provided by:

Images from top [L-R]: Sarah Christianson, Barley from Artz’s saltwater-damaged field, from the series When the Landscape is Quiet Again: North Dakota’s Oil Boom, September 2013; Sara Quinn, The Chuitna River, Alaska, 2014; Linda Wysong, Still from the video Second Look, 2016, 5:33 min. Image by Adam Simmons; Courtesy the artists. Gene Daniels, Children Play in Yard of Ruston Home, While Tacoma Smelter Stack Showers Area with Arsenic and Lead Residue, 08/1972. From series: DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 – 1977. Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives.