The photos are from USGS‘ collection of Loma Prieta photos. That second to last one is Tom Brokaw writing his on-air speech.
I’ve never heard of any of those photographers, and for the most part, that is true for most of the photographers whose work consistute public archives. The benefits of archives are obvious, but I wonder how these photos came to be acquired. Do citizens donate of their own accord 30 years after the event? Does the organization seek them out in some way? Are archives often approached by people who are terrible photographers? Are they not approached enough?
Given the sheer amount of photographs of any given newsworthy event, it would seem that most archives are underpopulated. I’m sure there are thousands of competent amateurs out there whose photos are simply discarded at the end of life instead of donated. That’s a shame, and the internet is no solution given how companies eventually tend to delete accounts inactive for a certain amount of time.
Success in the art world hardly seems to be a dependable way to preserve work, given how projects become popular and are forgotten so quickly. Books are expensive if they’re well regarded and the prices on the secondhand market exorbitant after only a few years in print, if not a few weeks. The relative anonymity of the archive seems far more appealing than the mercurial ups and downs of the market. There are the few giants who remain through time, but few people can name your average photo project on any given subject from, say, 15 years ago. That’s a terribly short lifespan for work which you’ve spent years making.
It comforts me a bit that even if nobody pays attention to my work (especially now that I’m documenting some pieces of the housing crisis) during my lifetime, there might be a place for it in an archive. It is a humble end, but I find the prospect of being stored for future sifting by researchers or scholars immensely appealing.