Wisconsin-born photographer Lewis Wickes Hine used his talent for the common good. Also a sociologist, Hine employed documentary photography in the early 20th Century to track companies that used child labor. As a staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, Hine was an activist for this important social issue and soon became an enemy to factory foremen across the United States. At Hyperallergic, Allison Meier’s piece on a new book from Taschen puts Hine’s work as a child labor documentarian (as well as his other photography) in perspective. From Meier:
Born in 1874 in the small town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Hine was one of the earliest photographers to use the camera as a tool of social reform (following in the recently trod footsteps of Jacob Riis, who documented the New York City slums). After his father died suddenly in 1890, Hine became the main earner for his family. His work included a stint of six-day weeks at an upholstery factory. He later studied sociology and got a job as an educator at the Felix Adler Ethical Culture School in New York, where he learned to use a camera. (And he got skilled at talking to children, something vital to his covert factory missions.) With NCLC he turned his photographs into slideshow presentations, posters, fliers, and exhibitions (with informative text panels like one from 1914 that compared the “normal child” to the “mill child,” whose eyes were ringed with dark circles that gaped from under a tattered cap).
Earlier in 2018, in my Hyperallergic piece on a new comic about prolific photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, I cited the work of University of Delaware professor Jason E. Hill and his Artist as Reporter: Weegee, Ad Reinhardt, and the PM News Picture. See my separate post on his new book, in which Hill explores the 1940s-era illustration- and photography-based newspaper PM. Even as Hine had passed away in the year that PM launched, Hill writes that his reform photography was critical to the origins of the New York City tabloid and the brand of journalism practiced by its contributors. See more on Artist as Reporter.