America Through a Lense – 40 years later

East Boston, Mass., in 1973 (left) and in 2012.

East Boston, Mass., in 1973 (left) and in 2012.

In 1971, when the Environmental Protection Agency was in its early days, someone at the agency got the idea to send nearly 100 freelance photographers around America to document the country. These weren’t postcard shots, but pictures of street corners, freight yards, parking lots, alleyways — wherever people were working and living. It was called Documerica, and it went on for seven years.

A young photographer, Michael Philip Manheim, joined the Documerica project in 1973. His assignment was to take a good look at the noise pollution in Boston from Logan International Airport. Forty years later, he went back to East Boston to take photos for the EPA’s next generation of the project, State of the Environment. Manheim joins Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon to talk about the project then, and now. (NPR Environment)


On photographing East Boston in 1973

“The people who lived … in the vicinity … were having a very, very big problem. The airport grew and grew and grew, and needed more and more land, and … the people … were so hurt by the noise pollution because at that point, the airplanes would land and take off right over their street. … I documented cracks in walls in the homes, people with severe hearing problems. It just went on and on and on.”


On going back to East Boston in 2012



“There is one house left out of this huge neighborhood, and what you see there are, well, the trees, some of the street signs and warehouses that are connected with either the airport or other serviced industries … the neighborhood was decimated.” More information on Documerica




Clearly there has been some drastic social affects due to Logan Airports’ expansion. When considering ‘Sustainability’, the environment, society and economy must all be in harmony. Whilst the development of the Airport likely expanded the economic opportunity, it did so at the expense of the environment and the local people.







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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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