Lewis Hine provides an example for how art can change our society for the good of human being. In the early 1900s after the civil war and the start of the industry revolution, demands for working labor increased and many children were taken away from their childhood life to work as slaves in many of factors across America.
The number of working children under 15 years old increased from 1.5 million in 1890 to 2 million in 1910. The children barely find good childhood environment or education. The demands to end the child labor, also known as child slavery, started at the early 1900s when the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC)worked to achieve the goal of ending the child labor (check Heart-tugging Photos of Nomadic Children in Streets of London in 1980s).
The NCLC assigned the job to document this situation to Lewis Hine, a school teacher and photographer who worked for the committee as investigative photographer. For more than 15 years Lewis Hine travelled to most of the cities in United States and took photos for all the child labor in America as he stated:
“There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work.”
Lewis Hine visited coal mines, textile miles, canneries and meatpacking houses to document the children suffering through his photography. Lewis Hine’s photographs were not taken that easy as he had to visit factories where the managers did not want the public to know about its working conditions. All his photos were original with no retouching, Lewis Hine described his photos as “double-sure that my photo data was 100% pure–no retouching or fakery of any kind.”
- Diptych Photos Unveiling Where Children Around the World Sleep
- Portraits of Children from Rural Areas and Their Dream Jobs
By 1916, the NCLC efforts supported with Lewis Hine work and photographs were successful to help establishing child labor standards. As a result for these activities, the number of child labor was cut to nearly half. The above Lewis Hine’s photographs that was a reason to stop the suffering of many children in American and help returning to them their childhood life. However, Lewis Hine did not got the appropriate appreciation in his life as he died in poverty and neglected by many, Leiws Hine’s photos started to gain increasing popularity and appreciating after his death.
All the Lewis Hine’s photographs in this post are a courtesy of the Library of the Congress.