September 26, 1874 – November 3, 1940
Lewis Hine, an iconic photographer who is known for using his box-type 5 x 7 camera as an instrument for exposing a cruel underground world, brought to the attention to the United States that Child Labour is unacceptable and in doing so he enabled the government to change the law, to let children actually live as children.
Lewis Wickes Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on 26th September, 1874. From 1900 to 1907 he studied sociology in Chicago and New York before finding work at the Ethical Culture School. By 1903 Hine, had purchased his first camera, he tried to incorporate his photographs in his teaching and through his career as a photographer he was able to establish what became known as documentary photography. He saw photography as an extremely powerful force for the shaping of consciousness, relying on the viewer’s belief in the reality of the subject while providing his own interpretation of that subject.
As a school teacher, Hine was especially critical of the country’s child labour laws. Although some states had enacted legislation designed to protect young workers, there were no national laws dealing with this problem. In 1908 the National Child Labour Committee employed Hine as their staff investigator and photographer. This resulted in two books on the subject, Child Labour in the Carolinas (1909) and Day Laborers Before Their Time (1909).
Hine travelled the country taking pictures of children working in factories. In one 12 month period he covered over 12,000 miles. Unlike the photographers who worked for Thomas Barnardo, Hine made no attempt to exaggerate the poverty of these young people. Hine’s critics claimed that his pictures were not “shocking enough“. However, Hine argued that people were more likely to join the campaign against child labour if they felt the photographs accurately captured the reality of the situation.
Factory owners often refused Hine permission to take photographs and accused him of muckraking. To gain access Hine had to sometimes disguise himself by hidding his camera and posing as a fire inspector. Hine worked for the National Child Labour Committee for eight years and her told one audience: “Perhaps you are weary of child labour pictures. Well, so are the rest of us, but we propose to make you and the whole country so sick and tired of the whole business that when the time for action comes, child labour pictures will be records of the past.”