Space & Innovation

Smog Almost Killed New York City, Here's How

In the 1950s and 1960s, a photographer captured the environmental destruction of New York City.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Arthur Tress used his camera to show the changing landscape of New York City, and captured a place that was pretty much unrecognizable from what it is today. Following its post WWII prosperity, New York City started to see the negative effects of an industrial boom as the environment took a turn for the worse.

During this period, toxic smog engulfed the city with extremely elevated levels of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, and it took a direct hit at the health of New Yorkers. In 1966, during a period of elevated air pollution, known as the "killer smog", where researchers found an increase in death rate of 24 deaths per day. It was during this time that Arthur documented the destruction of the environment around him.

Through his photographs, Arthur opened a dialog about the environmental issues in New York City. His photographs were published in magazines and put on posters in hopes that they would be seen by people who had the power to enforce change. Over time, New York City began to clean up it's act thanks to programs such as the EPA, which was founded in 1970. Arthur's photos now serve as a record to remind us of the importance of preserving the world around us.