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Lewis Hine
Biography, photographs, book, catalogue, exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur
Article added on August 14, 2013

A progressive photographer and a precursor of the documentary and concerned photography
  
At Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, you can enjoy the last days of a fabulous Lewis Hine exhibition with some 170 photographs from the collections of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film. The exhibition ends on August 25, 2013 so hurry up!

Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) was a sociologist who chose photography as a medium to denounce injustice and poverty. His work rests relevant especially for what is going on in Third World countries, which export the products to Europe and the US.

Lewis Hine was one of the first photographers to document the situation of the impoverished European immigrants reaching the United States through Ellis Island. He gave them a face by showing their humanity. He focused on the personality of each individual.

Lewis Hine worked many years for the National Child Labor Committee, bringing the problem of child labor to the attention of a larger audience. Children picking cotton and fruit, breaking coal in the mines and working in factories were among his subjects.

Among his most famous photographs are the ones he took about the building of the Empire State Building. He has somewhat idealized his subjects. His photographs of daily activities of the workers are full of admiration. I would go even further than the catalogue and assert that, at times, his photos even remind me of Socialist Realism. Anyway, Lewis Hine focused on real problems of his day and helped rise awareness for them.

Lewis Hine was a progressive photographer, in European terms a left-wing artist. He is considered an
ancestor and/or precursor to the  “documentary” and “concerned” photography.

He died in poverty, but his archives were saved by the Photo League

He died in poverty, his house being foreclosed upon, dependent on social service agencies for food and dismissed as an old fashioned photographers, but many of his photographs illustrate elementary school textbooks, ornate museums and fetch important sums on the art market today.

As Alison Nordström points out in her catalogue essay, Lewis Hine's photographic estate, including prints, negatives, clippings and correspondence, was offered to the MoMA in New York, which declined. It was saved by the Photo League, a left-leaning photographers collective which, in 1947, was officially identified as a front for the Communist Party and, four years later, forced to disband.

In 1955, the Hine archive was transferred to George Eastman House, then under the leadership of Beaumont Newhall, one of the photographer's earliest champions in the art world. Today's Hine collection at George Eastman House consist of 7000 prints, over 4000 negatives, 117 pamphlets, catalogues, periodicals, reviews and articles. His personal papers, mainly letters, include 223 items.

The present exhibition and catalogue focus on some of his most famous works as well as on their connection with lesser-known photographs, letters and publications.

Biography of Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine was born in Oshkosh, Minnesota, on September 26, 1874 to Douglas Hull and Sarah Hayes Hine. His father died in 1892, his mother in 1901.

In 1892 Lewis W. Hine received his high school diploma and began work as a laborer in a furniture upholstery factory. The following year, the factory closed and he took various unskilled jobs. At night school, he studied stenography and bookkeeping. In 1895 he was hired as janitor at a bank and eventually promoted to a clerk.

In 1898 he taught at Oshkosh Normal School. The following year, he met Frank Manny, head of experimental education at State Normal School. He was admitted as a student and began formal training as a teacher. In 1900 he studied at the University of Chicago, where noted progressives such as John Dewey and Elia Flagg Young workewd.

In 1901 Lewis W. Hine moved to Yonkers, New York and was hired by the New York Ethical Culture School as an assistant teacher of Biological and Earth Sciences. He continued his pedagogical education at New York University.

In 1903 Frank A. Manny, Director of the Ethical Culture School, recommended that Hine learned photography in order to be able to take photographs for the school. The same year, Lewis Hine began shooting Immigrants on Ellis Island. He was not there on assignment. He did not expect to make a living from these photographers. Instead, an artist was born. He continued this work periodically until 1909 and returned to the subject in 1926, after the United States had introduced tougher immigration laws. For him, immigrants were above all humans with dignity.

Unlike Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine's intention was not to accuse, but to ennoble with sober portraits. In a 1940 application for a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, he pointed out: “Much emphasis is being put upon the dangers inherent in our alien groups, our unassimilated or even partly Americanized citizens - criticism based on insufficient knowledge. A corrective for this would be better facilities for seeing, and thus understanding what the facts are, both in possible dangers and real assets.”

In 1904 he married Sarah Ann Rich. He attended Columbia School of Social Work. He met Arthur Kellogg, editor of Charities and Commons as well as other members of the progressive community. The following year, he was awarded a Master's Degree in Pedagogy from New York University.

In 1906 he began to work as a freelance photographer while continuing to teach. He got the first commissions from the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) to document the plight of American child workers.

In 1907 still at the Ethical Culture School, he taught photography to a class that included Paul Strand, who was 16 at the time. The same year, the NCLC commissioned Lewis Hine to investigate child labor practices in the New York slums. He registered at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of New York University for graduate studies in sociology. He was commissioned to take photographs for The Pittsburgh Survey, a pioneering sociological study in the context of the Progressive Era reform movement. The Pittsburgh Survey was the first large scale, systematic study on the working conditions, accommodation, poverty, education, etc. in urban America. Some 70 researchers, sociologists, statisticians, economists and artists participated in the study.

In 1908 Lewis Hine gave up his job as a teacher to become a full-time photographer for the NCLC, which had been established - like the Ethical Culture School - by Felix Adler. Charles Weller commissioned him for his book Neglected Neighbors in the National Capital. Lewis Hine reported on child labor in the mines and factories of Indianapolis, Cincinnati and West Virginia. In addition, he placed his first advertisement, “Lewis W. Hine, Social Photography”, in Charities and Commons.

From 1908 to 1910 he focused on child labor. His photographs for the NCLC appeared in the popular press, illustrating articles on labor and reform efforts. He run Hine Photo Service, selling images for publication.

From 1910 until 1917 he primarily worked for the NCLC. His son, Corydon Wickes Hine, was born in 1912. In 1913-14 Lewis Hine established an exhibition department at NCLC and began presenting lectures illustrated with lantern slides made from his photos. In 1918 he ended his working relationship with the NCLC when his monthly salary was cut from $275 to $200.

In 1918-19 he was hired by the American Red Cross to documents its work in Europe, ravaged by war. Lewis Wickes Hine made mainly photographs of the people in the Balkans, Italy, Greece, France and Belgium. It was his first and only trip abroad.

In 1919 he moved with his family to Hastings-on-Hudson in New York. In 1919-20 he worked for The Survey and The Survey Graphic. He began working for the NCLC again. In addition, he began photographing people at work. His photographs appeared in The Human Cost of War by Homer Folks.

In 1921 facing financial difficulties, he was forced to cash in an insurance policy. From 1922 to 1929 he accepted commissions from the industry, including Western Electric, as well as from organizations like the National Consumers' League, the Milbank Foundation and the Amalgamated Clothing Worker's Union.

In the 1920s, Lewis Hine got interested in the situation of African Americans. In order to escape the difficult economic situation as well as racism in the Southern states, they traveled North, attracted by factory jobs. For too often, they ended up in slums, suffering from malnutrition, high infant mortality, illiteracy, poor health, etc. Lewis Hine photographed the poor, but also showed the African American middle-class. In addition, he made portraits of pupils and students in the new schools and colleges opened for Blacks in the Southern states.

In 1925 he contributed illustrations to American Economic Life and the Means of its Improvement by Rex Tugwell. As mentioned above, in 1926 he went back to Ellis Island in response to the imposition of an immigration quota.

In 1930 and 1931 he shot his famous photos of the construction of the Empire State Building, which remain popular until this day. In 1932 his book Men at Work was published by Macmillan. It remained the only book he produced entirely himself. Intended for children, it was favorably reviewed for the artistic quality of its images. It may have made Lewis Hine beginning to think of himself as a modernist artist, as Alison Nordström points out in the catalogue. In any case, Men at Work is typical for Lewis Hine, addressing both social and aesthetic in his simple captions. He dedicated the book to Frank Manny, who had brought him to photography and was his mentor in Ethical Culture education.

In 1933 Lewis Hine was commissioned to photograph workers at Shelton Looms. He worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority. He photographed Kentucky and Arkansas for the Red Cross. He covered relief, rural nursing and other health programs for federal and state agencies as well as for the Red Cross.

From 1936 to 1937 he was the chief photographer for the National Research Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In 1937 he published together with David Weintraub the book Technological Change. In 1938 he visited Beaumont Newhall, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Subsequently, Newhall published an article about Hine in The Magazine of Art, the journal of the American Art Association.

In 1938-39, Lewis Hine was occasionally commissioned from periodicals and newspapers, including the Hartford Courant, Fortune and Life.

In 1939 Elizabeth McCausland and Berenice Abbott  championed Lewis Hine for a major retrospective at the Riverside Museum, which opened in January. According to Alison Nordström, it was the culmination of of Lewis Hine's re-defining transition from social worker to modern artist. The two women and partners in life organized the exhibition, selected the photographs and even created new titles for some of them.

Despite this accolade, as mention above, in 1939, the Home Owners Loan Corporation threatened to foreclose his home. His wife Sara Rich Hine died from pneumonia. The following year, his home was foreclosed, though he was able to stay in as a renter. Lewis Wickes Hine died on November 3, 1940 after surgery at the Dobbs Ferry Hospital. He is buried in Ardsley-on-Hudson.

Last but not least, if you should be near Winterthur, Switzerland, visit the Fotomuseum on August 25, 2013 and you will get a special treat: Alison Nordström, the curator, will guide you through the exhibition herself at 11:30; it is the last day of the Lewis Hine retrospective, which has traveled around the world.

This article is based on the exhibition catalogue: Lewis Hine from the collections of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film. English catalogue by Alison Nordström and Elizabeth McCausland, D.A.P., New York / Fundacio MAPFRE, Madrid, 2011, hardcover, 254 pages; my version is the second printing from 2012. Order the book / exhibition catalogue from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de.

The exhibition has been shown at:
- Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris from September 7 to December 18, 2011
- Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid from February 6 to April 2014, 2012
- Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam from September 15, 2012 to January 6, 2013
- Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland from June 8 to August 25, 2013 (not mentioned in the catalogue)

More books by / about the photographer Lewis Hine from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. - Great American Songbook sheet music.


Lewis Hine from the collections of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film
. English catalogue by Alison Nordström and Elizabeth McCausland, D.A.P., New York / Fundacio MAPFRE, Madrid, 2011, hardcover, 254 pages;
my version is the second printing from 2012. Order the book / exhibition catalogue from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de.

The exhibition has been shown at:
- Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris from September 7 to December 18, 2011
- Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid from February 6 to April 2014, 2012
- Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam from September 15, 2012 to January 6, 2013
- Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland from June 8 to August 25, 2013 (not mentioned in the catalogue)

More books by / about the photographer Lewis Hine from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. - Great American Songbook sheet music.





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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.