What if a now – anonymous photographer – likely a Wright Brothers assistant – had not snapped a photograph of Orville Wright’s first flight of a powered aircraft on a windswept North Carolina beach on a cold December day in 1903?
What if Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange had not stopped to photograph a weary “Migrant Mother” and her clinging children as Arthur Rothstein was capturing despairing Dust Bowl families and Walker Evans was gathering images of grime-covered laborers in mines and mills?
What if photographers had not recorded humdrum slices of American life: cluttered Manhattan newsstands, weathered Vermont feed stores, humble Illinois motor courts, lonely Nebraska sod houses, dusty New Mexico trails – and the people who lived and worked in these places?
And here’s a more important question:
What if these images had been taken but never preserved for us to use and savor? What if, like billions of other photographs and moving pictures, they had been lost in the mists of time?
To our great benefit and relief, they and more than 15 million other historic photographs – dating to the days of the daguerreotype and before – are priceless national treasures, safely and meticulously preserved at America’s oldest federal cultural institution: our majestic Library of Congress.
Not just preserved, but also available to anyone, anywhere in the world, without copyright restriction.
This is America! Foundation has been chartered to produce such memorable photographs.
This is America! is a nonprofit foundation, launched in 2012, that is raising funds to produce a monumental, nationwide visual study of the United States in the 21st Century.
They include scenes of what we call “Disappearing America”: everyday places that have been threatened or destroyed by the ravages of time: Sagging barns. Abandoned gas stations. Stripped and empty drive-in move theatres. Shabby trailer courts and family-owned motels, cluttered general stores and old-time butcher shops barely hanging on.
Quirky roadside attractions and freaky museums, too, shuttered forever as interstate highways and rampant development suck the life out of old, two-lane roads.
These and countless other places and people in every American state are the focus of This is America! Foundation’s visual explorers: renowned American photographers Carol M. Highmith and distinguished videographer Connie Doebele.