Digital Library of the Week: Lewis Wicks Hine: Documentary Photography

Because of the Labor Day weekend, let’s take a look at one of the great social documentary photographers. The digital collection Lewis Wicks Hine: Documentary Photography, 1905-1938, has over 500 of his photographs. His early twentieth century photographs capture the living and working conditions of America’s rising labor class. As a teacher at the Ethical Culture School (now the Ethical Culture Fieldston School) in New York City, he was especially concerned with child welfare and many of his photos reflect this. He hoped his images would lead city officials to provide better living and working situations for these immigrant families.

Regulating the Big Wheel in a Tire Factory (1917-1931)
Regulating the Big Wheel in a Tire Factory (1917-1931)

In the 1920s, Hines believed new technology would lift some of the hard-work burden from the workers. He created a series of photographs he called “Work Portraits.” They depict a man and the machine, working together in harmony. The most famous of these photographs are ones depicting the construction of the Empire State Building during the early 1930s.

His book, Men at Work, illustrates Hines’ dedication to the manual and machine labor of his era (don’t fret ladies – he also published a Women at Work!). We have many books on Hine and his photography. Search the library catalog for Hine, Lewis Wicks as the author. Enjoy your Labor Day!

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