Documerica Photographer Spotlight: Erik Calonius

Today’s post is written by Larry Shockley, archives specialist in NARA’s Office of Innovation. 

In 1972 a freelance photographer by the name of Erik Calonius was hired by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to capture photographs relating to EPA activities, environmental problems, and everyday American life in the 1970’s. Many of the photos that Calonius took wound up as part of the EPA’s DOCUMERICA Project.

Calonius spent thousands of hours traveling all over the United States photographing images depicting noise, water pollution, strip mining, and urban blight in cities. After devoting so much time to such grim subject matter it is easy to conclude that a young contractor such as Calonius would welcome the opportunity to cover “everyday life” issues.

Original Caption: Shopping for groceries in a Washington, District of Columbia Supermarket.
Local photo ID number: 412-DA-13200 (NAID 555652)
Original Caption: Mother and daughter in a public swimming pool in Washington, District of Columbia. Local photo ID number: 412-DA-13197 (NAID 555649)
Original Caption: New Yorkers line up to receive “free gifts” at a Herald Square store opening.
Local photo ID number: 412-DA-5781 (NAID 548268)
Original Caption: Phone stalls at Broadway and 34th Street.
Local photo ID number: 412-DA-5782 (NAID 548269)
Original Caption: Surfing along Malibu Beach, California.
Local photo ID number: 412-DA-2471 (NAID 544964)

Although Calonius photographed images all over the country, his most downloaded image might have been a rare photo of one of the world’s biggest rock bands. Bearing the rather subtle title of “Rock Concert, 07/1973” Calonius captures a rare image of the band Pink Floyd, during their historic Dark Side of The Moon tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.

Original Caption: Rock concert.
Local photo ID number: 412-DA-11431 (NAID 553890)

From Malibu to New York, and Washington D.C. to Columbia, Maryland, the photos taken by Calonius resonate over half a century later.  

Read about the work of another Documerica photographer in the Unwritten Record: “Spotlight Photographer – John H. White,” and check out the National Archives Catalog, Google Arts and Culture, NARA’s YouTube Channel, and in several albums on NARA’s Flickr page to see more Documerica photographs in NARA’s holdings. 

Please note that the coloration you see within the NARA online catalog for the images in 412-DA does not reflect the original color. The images currently online were reproduced from a separate reference set, whose color has shifted over time. We are currently working on re-digitizing the series from copies that were better preserved and reflect the original colors. The scans within this blog post are examples of items that were re-digitized from the original slides.

The photographs included in this post have no known copyright restrictions. If you have any questions about the images in this post or the holdings of the Still Picture Branch, please contact us at .


Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 210-G-C241
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 83-G-41368)
  • Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 83-G-41430
  • National Archives (210-G-A14)

If using a large number of our images, the National Archives will appreciate receiving copies of publications that contain our photographs. Such copies can be sent to the Still Picture Branch or the Library, National Archives and Records Administration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *