Monday, December 11, 2006

Lewis Hine

Lately, I've been admiring the work of photographer Lewis Hine. Although I've seen examples of Hine's work before, I guess I never took note of the attributions or remembered who the shooter was.

Hine represented so much that I admire in photographers. What? You didn't think my photo interests extended past a pretty face, tits 'n ass?

That aside, Hine captured some truly remarkable and enduring images. He made important social statements with his work. Sadly, during his lifetime, his greatness went largely unrecognized. He spent the last years of his life in poverty with little recognition for his work. Romantic notions of starving artists notwithstanding, I think that sucks even more than usual. You see, in Hine's case, his art was used by reform activists to precipitate positive social change. The social change I'm talking about had to do with child labor laws.

During the last half of the 18th century and into first part of the 20th Century, the American industrial revolution was fueled by cheap labor. Sadly, chidren were considered a cheap, abundant, and easily replaceable labor commodity. They worked in dismal and dangerous conditions. It's sad to think that a big chunk of America's industrial might was built on the exploitation of children. I guess the industrial North, who rightfully abhored the South's use of slaves to maintain their agrarian economy, thought it was okay to exploit kids to grow their industrial economy. Go figure, right?

Hine became the official photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). For ten years, on behalf of the NCLC, Hine traveled to factories and sweatshops and other workplaces documenting the plight of children in harsh and unforgiving work environments.

Hines other contributions to the art and craft of photography included photographing and documenting immigrants at Ellis Island, American Red Cross relief efforts in Europe, during and after WW1, and, again in the Southern U.S. during the Great Depression. Hine also captured rural life in the mountains of Tennessee for the Tennessee Valley Authority and he was commissioned as the official photographer for the building of New York City's Empire State Building. In addition to Hine's remarkable photographs focused on the plight of children in the workforce, I think I love Hine's work documenting the construction of the Empire State Building the best. Many of those images are breathtaking and vertigo-inducing!

That's quite a list of photographic accomplishments by anyone's standards!

Sometimes I sit here and think about what other things I might be doing with these skills I possess... something in addition to shooting pretty naked chicks, I mean.

Just so you don't go away complaining that I didn't post another pretty girl along with this historically educational update, here's another one of Selena from last week. I put up a couple of other pics of Selena a fews posts ago but I figure you can manage to look at another shot of her.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Its amazing that you bring Lewis Hine up. I recently just heard of his works through my photography class this passed week. Then later on agan this week by another photographer as we chatted over coffee. Strange no? Keep up the good work, I'm a big fan.