Trained as a sociologist at Columbia University, Hine gave up his New York City teaching job in 1908 to become a full-time photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Created four years earlier, the reform agency's success was largely dependent on its ability to sway public opinion. Influenced by Jacob Riis's pictures of slum conditions on New York's Lower East Side, Hine obsessively documented the working conditions of children in mills, factories, and fields across the country. The results—more than five thousand photographs in all—were used in field reports, exhibitions, pamphlets, and slide lectures. Hine's decidedly unromantic, understated pictures served as a potent weapon of persuasion. The camera's ability to amplify the idiosyncratic, telling detail also gave each of his subjects the simple, irreducible integrity of a single human life.
Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940)