Picturing the Century

Portfolio: Lewis Hine

For Lewis Wicks Hine (1874-1940) the camera was both a research tool and an instrument of social reform. Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Hine studied sociology at the University of Chicago and Columbia and New York Universities. He began his career in 1904 photographing immigrants arriving in the United States at Ellis Island in New York harbor. In 1908 he became 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. In 1908, Hine photographed life in the steelmaking section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the influential study "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, and included photographs of the workers constructing New York City's Empire State Building. 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.

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