Images of everyday life in 1970s America evoke disco dancing and inflation, protests and bell-bottoms, gas shortages and suburban sprawl. At a time when the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal wore on the national psyche, a burgeoning movement to protect the natural environment was gaining force.
A new Smithsonian traveling exhibition, "Searching for the Seventies:
Created by the
What emerged was a moving and textured portrait of America. Capturing a rapidly changing society with surprising resonances to the present, "Searching for the Seventies:
The exhibition's three sections are named after popular songs of the time:
- "Ball of Confusion" documents the tumultuous environmental, political and social reality of the '70s. The energy crises, slow economic growth and high unemployment were themes pursued by many of the photographers. They brought issues such as the future of cities, gender equality, abortion and gay rights into crisp focus.
- "Everybody Is a Star" showcases vibrant and diverse examples of self-expression--bell-bottoms, bare midriffs, mini dresses and bright colors--all were in stark contrast to the buttoned-up fashions and accompanying societal norms of the 1950s and early '60s. The ethos of the '70s was "do your own thing." Some of the DOCUMERICA photographers were drawn to subject that emphasized growing appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity.
- "Pave Paradise" illustrates the fragmented landscape of America in the '70s. Much as today, many Americans had romanticized notions of an idyllic life in small-town America. But small-town reality was often one of poverty, pollution and quickly dwindling populations. The photographers also exposed the stark differences between sprawling suburbs and crumbling inner cities of the '70s. They trained their cameras on the great vistas and natural beauty of the American landscape, capturing the threat of development and environmental damage done in the name of progress.
"Searching for the Seventies:
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About the National Archives
With more than 40 million still pictures, the National Archives is one of the world's great repositories of historical photographs. This ever-growing number of prints, negatives, slides, transparencies and digital images are held at the National Archives in
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