Trained as a sociologist at Columbia University, Hine gave up his teaching job in 1908 to become a full-time photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. The success of the reform agency, created four years earlier, 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, often going undercover to gain access to his subjects. The results—more than five thousand photographs—were used in field reports, exhibitions, pamphlets, and slide lectures. Hine’s decidedly unromantic, understated pictures served as a potent weapon of persuasion.
Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940)