Lewis Hine

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"Power house mechanic working on steam pump," 1920

Lewis Wickes Hine (September 26, 1874November 3, 1940) was an American sociologist and photographer. Hine used his camera as a tool for social reform.


[edit] Early life

Lewis W. Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1874. After his father died in an accident, he began working and saved his money for a college education. Hine studied sociology at the University of Chicago, Columbia University and New York University. He became a teacher in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, where he encouraged his students to use photography as an educational medium.[1] The classes traveled to Ellis Island in New York Harbor, photographing the thousands of immigrants who arrived each day. Between 1904 and 1909, Hine took over 200 plates (photographs), and eventually came to the realization that his vocation was photojournalism.[2]

[edit] Photojournalism

Baseball team composed mostly of child laborers from a glassmaking factory. Indiana, August 1908.
Child laborers in glassworks. Indiana, 1908

In 1907, he became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). Over the next decade, Hine documented child labor in American industry to aid the NCLC's lobbying efforts to end the practice. Between 1906 and 1908, he was a freelance photographer for The Survey, a leading social reform magazine. He took all these pictures to show the country the cruelties of child labor.

In 1908, Hine photographed life in the steel-making districts and people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the influential sociological study called The Pittsburgh Survey. During and after World War I, he documented American Red Cross relief work in Europe. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Hine made a series of "work portraits," which emphasized the human contribution to modern industry. In 1930, Hine was commissioned to document the construction of The Empire State Building. Hine photographed the workers in precarious positions while they secured the iron and steel framework of the structure, taking many of the same risks the workers endured. In order to obtain the best vantage points, Hine was swung out in a specially designed basket 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue.[3]

"Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pormal [i.e., Pownal] Cotton Mill. Vt."

During the Great Depression, he again worked for the Red Cross, photographing drought relief in the American South, and for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), documenting life in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. He also served as chief photographer for the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) National Research Project, which studied changes in industry and their effect on employment. Hine was also a member of the faculty of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

The Library of Congress holds more than 5,000 Hine photographs, including examples of his child labor and Red Cross photographs, his work portraits, and his WPA and TVA images. Other large institutional collections include nearly 10,000 of Hine's photographs and negatives held at the George Eastman House and almost 5,000 NCLC photographs at the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

[edit] Later life of Lewis Hine

In 1936, Hine was selected as the photographer for the National Research Project of the Works Projects Administration, but his work there was never completed.

The last years of his life were filled with professional struggles due to loss of government and corporate patronage. Nobody was interested in his work, past or present, and Lewis Hine was consigned to the same level of poverty as he had earlier recorded in his pictures. He died at age 66 on November 3, 1940 at Dobbs Ferry Hospital in Dobbs Ferry, New York, after an operation.[4]

[edit] Notable photographs

  • Child Labor: Girls in Factory (1908)
  • Steam Fitter (1920)
  • Workers, Empire State Building (1931)

[edit] References

  1. ^ Smith-Shank, Deborah L. (March 2003). "Lewis Hine and His Photo Stories: Visual Culture and Social Reform". Art Education 56 (2): 33–37. OCLC 96917501. ISSN 0004-3125. 
  2. ^ Troncale, Anthony T. "About Lewis Wickes Hine". New York Public Library. http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/photo/hinex/empire/biography.html. Retrieved on 2007-05-22. 
  3. ^ Troncale, Anthony T. "Facts about the Empire State Building". New York Public Library. http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/photo/hinex/empire/about.html. Retrieved on 2007-05-22. 
  4. ^ The New York Times; November 4, 1940; "Lewis W. Hine; Photographer Whose Pictures Showed Conditions in Factories" p. 19

[edit] External links

NAME Hine, Lewis Wickes
SHORT DESCRIPTION American photographer
DATE OF BIRTH September 26, 1874
PLACE OF BIRTH Oshkosh, Wisconsin
DATE OF DEATH November 3, 1940
PLACE OF DEATH Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
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