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America in the 1970s: The Southwest

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Welcome to Day 2 of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today's subject is the American Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and California. The photos depict some of the challenges facing residents at the time: scarce resources, mining operations, growing cities and towns, as well as glimpses of people at work and play in the deserts, mountains and ocean shores. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Be sure to see the whole series: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. [30 photos]

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Boys play on a bicycle on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, in 1972. (Terry Eiler/National Archives and Records Administration)
Boys play on a bicycle on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, in 1972. (Terry Eiler/National Archives and Records Administration)
A crop duster plane flies low over a field in California's Imperial Valley, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Hunters, taking a deer back to Denver, stop at a check station north of Rifle, Colorado, where their kill is counted and examined by the Colorado Department of Fish and Game. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Alaua James, 15, of the Alta Youth Conservation Corps, Alta, Utah, in July of 1972. (Bruce McAllister/NARA) #
Mining operations at the Peabody Coal Company in the Black Mesa area of northeastern Arizona, in 1973. (Lyntha Scott Eiler/NARA) #
Left: The start of annual Outboard World Championship boat race on Lake Havasu near Parker, Arizona, May 1972. Right: A dune buggy on sand dunes east of Brawley, California, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
North Window Arch, Arches National Park, eastern Utah, May 1972. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Traffic on the Hollywood Freeway near Ventura Beach, California, May 1972. (Gene Daniels/NARA) #
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California, May 1972. (Dick Rowan/NARA) #
At an amusement park in Santa Cruz, California, May 1972. (Dick Rowan/NARA) #
Frank Starbuck, last of the old time ranchers near Fairview, Colorado, manages a spread of 1,300 acres and 400 head of cattle, October 1972. He does it alone because it is too difficult and expensive to get help. Starbuck finds it easier to feed his livestock from a horse drawn wagon or sled than from a truck or tractor. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Labor Day weekend brings the annual Garfield County Fair Parade in Rifle, Colorado, September 1973. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Rifle, Colorado, hospital administrator Bob Georgeson hosts a party at his home in October of 1972. (David Hiser/NARA) #
A sign outside Moab, Utah, an old Mormon pioneer town situated on the Colorado River, invites industrial expansion, in May of 1972. The region is rich in oil, uranium, and potash. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Left: EPA laboratory monitor Frank Reed, driving an agency truck, makes daily collections of water and air samples from an atomic test site area in Nevada, May 1972. Right: Camping in the Maze, a remote and rugged region in the heart of the Canyonlands, in May of 1972. (Charles O'Rear/David Hiser/NARA) #
Empty steel beer and soft drink cans were accumulated from a variety of sources near Taos, New Mexico, to be used in building experimental houses. Builder Michael Reynolds bought the cans from bars at 15 cents a case, in May of 1974. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Abandoned automobiles and other debris clutter an acid water and oil filled five acre pond near Ogden, Utah, in April of 1974. It was cleaned up under EPA supervision to prevent possible contamination of the Great Salt Lake and a wildlife refuge nearby. (Bruce McAllister/NARA) #
Street scene in east Las Vegas, Nevada, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Left: Mazda vehicles await shipment, Terminal Island, Long Beach, California, June 1972. The RMS Queen Mary, moored in the background, opened as a tourist attraction on May 8, 1971. Right: The painted bus is home, October 1972. (David Hiser/Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
A waitress at the local A&W Drive-In is saving her earnings for out-of-town schooling, July 1973. (David Hiser/NARA) #
Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Colorado, May 1972. (Boyd Norton/NARA) #
M.K. Stewart, owner of this general store in Alamo, Nevada, is one of several citizens who wears a TLD (thermo-luminescent dosimeter) to measure radioactive fallout from past atomic testing, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Whole body counter, used to test levels of exposure to radiation, at the EPA's Las Vegas National Environmental Research Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Aerial view of a new housing development in San Diego, California, June 1975 (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Storefronts in Northern California, May 1972. (Tomas Sennett/NARA) #
Sunbathers at Huntington Beach, California, an oil platform visible in the distance, May 1975. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
Hikers from Explorer Post 397 of Los Angeles take a break during a hike on Mineral Peak, Nevada, in May of 1972. (Dick Rowan/NARA) #
Havasupai children, Arizona, 1972. (Terry Eiler/NARA) #
Dragline and workers at the site of an oil spill cleanup on the San Juan River in Monument Valley, Utah, October 1972. (David Hiser/NARA) #
A performer at the annual Junior Rodeo held on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Parker, Arizona, May 1972. (Charles O'Rear/NARA) #
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