Master Photographers: Lewis Hine
Lewis Hine (1874 -1940)
All images in this post come from the George Eastman House Collection.
There were two things I wanted to do. I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected. I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated.
"There are two things I wanted to do...
Lewis Hine was not a mere photographer but a social justice advocate that utilized photographs to editorialize and document the Progressive Era in America. Hine is often associated with photographs that documented the building of New York’s iconic Empire State Building. However, he gained notoriety though his exposè of child labor at the turn of the century. He once said, “Photography can light-up darkness and expose ignorance.”
Hine began his career as a teacher. He taught nature and geography at the Ethical and Cultural School in New York. 2 Hine developed a lesson plan on the Pilgrim Colonists and included connections to immigration trends of his day. He took his students to Ellis Island and took several photographs to be utilized in the classroom for further lessons. 2 His trip to Ellis Island served as the impetus to his photography career. Hine became enamored with his subject matter and photography. Hine continued to document immigration at Ellis Island for five years. 1
...I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected...
Hine pursued social reform and utilized his camera as a tool to expose child exploitation in industry. After his Ellis Island study, Hine left teaching and partnered with the National Child Labor Committee. The NCLC hired Hine to be an investigative reporter whose images would bring the issue of child labor to the national stage. Hine spent nearly a decade traveling the Appalachian Highlands, mainly in the Carolina Piedmont. 1 He often disguised his identity to obtain entry into mines, mills, fields and canneries. 2 He risked violent backlash from managers or supervisors that were not social reform sympathizers. He posed as a postcard salesman, machine recorder or an “industrial” photographer because he was not welcome as a voice to the opposition. 2 The photographs in this collection were often “taken on the fly” and represent raw photojournalism. He composed shots quickly and took notes such as subject’s age, working history, shift requirements and wage. His notes and photographs were used in pamphlets and national magazines.
...I wanted to show the things that needed to be appreciated."
Hine’s creative pursuits shifted later in his life. He focused more on life in New York, using his camera to highlight daily activities rather than editorialize. In 1930, Hine was hired to document the building of the Empire State Building. Hine risked his life again for his art. The commission required Hine to endure the same hazards as the iron and steel workers. 1 He was perched on steel I-beams or hoisted over 1,000 feet in the air by a custom-designed basket. 1 Images from this commission were later published in a book titled, “Men at Work.” Recently the United States Post Office created a commemorative stamp booklet that showcases Hine’s photographs. The booklet is titled “Made in America: Building a Nation." Most of the images, 11 of the 12, are from Hine’s portfolio and the book.
Excerpt from the Book
“Cities do not build themselves, machines cannot make machines,…We call this the Machine Age. But the more machines we use the more do we need real men to make and direct them.” 4
1. Unknown. “Lewis Hine” Wikipedia. Website. Accessed Nov 2014. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hine--
2. Oden, Lori. “Lewis Hine” International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. Website. Accessed Nov 2014. --http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/lewis-hine--
3. Unknown. “Child Labor” History Channel. Website. Accessed Nov 2014. --http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor--
4. Hine, Lewis. “Men at Work” Dover Publications, a Macmillan Company, New York, NY.
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