History of Photography



Introduction  
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary









 

 


THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES 1827-1991
 
 

 

1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991

 

see also:

HINE LEWIS




Chapter 13

 


1908
 


Lewis Hine
 

 


Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill
 

Moments of

Childhood

The work of the American photographer Lewis Hine unites moral perspective and social engagement to a media-conscious application of photography. Especially in his cycle on child labor in the USA, he rose beyond pictorial journalism to create an early model for a humane photojournalism.

 

He is said to have been always extremely exact with the inscriptions on his photographs. For he realized: only when all coordinates passed muster - place, time, situation, etc. - would his photographs be believed, and only then could he defy the skeptics and doubters, of which American politics and economy seemed to provide so many. To undertake all that was necessary so that his work might produce results - this was the so-to-speak motive force behind his at times mortally dangerous, and in any case physically and intellectually grueling, activity. "There were two things I wanted to do," the artist once explained; "I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected. I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated." In these terms, Lewis Wickes Hine numbers among the leading fieures of socially oriented documentary photography.

Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill
 

 

His vision is always fine and often superb

 

Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908, is the simple authorized title of the original 4 1/2 x 6 1/2-inch photograph. Specific mention of the name of the factory or the date and hour of the photograph are absent. Hine's concern here is with the condition in general: the presentation of child labor in factories, coal mines, saw mills, southern cotton fields, and northern urban streets and squares. What is most important for him is that the situation appear believable, that the photograph be accepted as evidence, as a document of record - a term that, moreover, first arose in the middle of the 1920s in John Cierson's review of Robert Flaherty's film Moana in the New York Sun of 8 February 1926, in which a similar impulse is termed a 'documentary'. Hine himself never used the expression. "A good photograph," as he once defined it, "is not a mere reproduction of an object or a group of objects, - it is an interpretation of Nature, a reproduction of impressions made upon the photographer which he desires to repeat to others."

With this statement, Hine gives a hint that he was to some extent willing to set up a scene. In the end, he was not simply seeking the naked pictorial evidence, but rather an effect in the sense of a clear, but moving, emphasis. Even in his very first series of photographs of immigrants on Ellis Island he had focused on individuals or couples from the mass of people, arranged them before a neutral background, and - one suspects - asked them to hold still a moment until the heavy Craflex camera was ready for the take and the flash powder was in the pan. Beyond a doubt, the complexity of the equipment itself required a certain level of the photographer's attention. In addition, however, Hine was always concerned also with composition, a fact that is of ten forgotten in the face of the simplicity of his pictures. "Certainly, Hine was conscious also of the aesthetics of photography," writes Walter Rosenblum, one of the top experts on Hine's work. "His files contain beautiful prints as well as mediocre ones. But when he organized a photograph, the effect was right. Considering the range of subject matter, the difficulties of site and execution, his vision is always fine and of ten superb."

A girl standing in front of a spinning machine. We can only guess at her age, for Hine did not reveal it, even though he often conducted short interviews with the subjects of his photographs, inquired about their circumstances, and asked their age. Sometimes he measured the size of the children he photographed against the buttons on his vest in order at least to estimate their ages later. This child, whom we could well imagine at a school desk, is probably between eight and ten years old. Technically, she is not alone in the photograph, but the grown woman in the background plays no role in the scene, even if she seems to be attentively watching the process of taking the photograph. The child herself is unselfconsciously working at the so-called ring spinning machine, a device invented in the USA at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The fact that at the moment of the photograph the child has paused in her work deprives the picture of none of its authority. She is hardly looking happily into the camera, nor does the state of her apron indicate any especially blessed living conditions. In 1907, that is, shortly before Hine made his photograph, a government inquiry reported that there were no fewer than 1,750,178 children between the ages often and fifteen years working in American factories, mines, farms, or what we would today designate as service industries (such as shoe-shine, newspaper and errand boys). Moreover, sixty-hour weeks were no rarity, in spite of child labor being forbidden by law in many of the states. In Pennsylvania, for example, children under the age of fourteen could not work in the mines, and in other fields, a minimum age of nine years had been set. Such regulations, however, were constantly being evaded, on the one hand because the booming economy required much labor, and on the other because the sheer poverty widespread among urban and city dwellers caused many families to rely on even their youngest members for financial help. For these reasons, proof-of-age certificates were forged, or false information was pro-vided by the parents. Hordes of underage children drudged away as 'breaker boys' in mines where accidents were a common occurrence, and where darkness, cold, wet, and bad air leading to life-long health problems were a certainty; these Hine also addressed in his pictures. "Whatever industry saves by child labor," Hine recognized very early, "society pays over and over."






 

Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
Spinner in New England Mill, 1873

From the series "Child Labor" (Textiles)

 

The worst form of institutions exploiting children

 

Some of the very worse conditions seem to have existed in the cotton mills of the American South - in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia - where official statistics record that almost fifty percent of all workers were approximately ten years old. The cotton mills are "the worst form of institutions exploiting children" according to the newspaper Solidarity, the "Official Organ of the Worker, Health, and Death Insurance of the United States of America," in 1907. The paper cited also the large rate of illiteracy among the children: 18.8 per cent of all working children between the ages of ten and fourteen were designated as illiterate, that is, they could neither read nor write. "How many of these innocent children, created as human beings in order to populate this planet, cannot attend school because they lack shoes, and above all, enough to eat! Because the mothers must go to work in place of the thousands of fathers who have been killed in the factories, and cannot look to their children's nourishment!"

The problem of child poverty and child labor was known, statistically proven, and the object of public debate. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) under the direction of Owen R. Lovejoy had formed a private organization with waving banners against the "greatest crime of modern society," the enslavement and exploitation of minors. A jointly issued journal bearing the title The Survey was founded to create the necessary publicity, but seems in fact to have drawn little attention to itself before Hine appeared. It was only with the help of his photographic testimony that the opposition to the often-excoriated evil gained the momentum necessary for reforms, new laws, and stricter oversight, and finally the abolition of child labor. "Although we cannot attribute a specific reform to a certain photographic image, the mass of Hine's powerful photographs could not have failed to make an impact." {Stephen Victor) Commissioned by the NCLC, Hine produced more than five thousand photographs between 1906 and 1918. He took his pictures in the factories of Cincinnati and Indianapolis, visited the glass works and mines of West Virginia and the textile mills of North Carolina. He visited home-workers in New York, and observed the night newspaper-sellers in New England. And this was not his first and largest photographic inquiry. As early as 1904 Hine had documented the arrival of European immigrants on Ellis Island. We can assume that Lewis Wickes Hine, born into modest circumstances in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1874, and orphaned at an early age, had refined his self-taught photographic knowledge while attending the New York Ethical Culture School - that is, he learned the use of the Graf lex and Fachkamera for 31/2 x 43/4-inch and 5 1/8 x 7-inch glass negatives, the handling of the rather dangerous flash powder, and in particular the dialogue with those whom he intended to portray in the midst of the fateful circumstances of their lives. In this effort, his humor, wit, human understanding, and love of mankind undoubtedly aided him - together with his often-noted dramatic talent that is supposed to have gained the versatile Hine entry into factories whose doors were officially closed to outsiders. There are stories that he regularly assumed the role of a Bible salesman, an insurance agent, or an industrial photographer to ease his way around the occasionally militant factory guards. After all, "to most employers, the exploitation of children was so profitable that nothing could be permitted to end it." (Walter Rosenblum) Hine's photographs appeared in the publications of Hine NCLC, in particular in The Survey. They became the motif for posters and appeared in exhibitions and slide-lectures with whose help Hine and the NCLC attempted to reach a broader public. Hine's photographs, in other words, were part of an advanced concept in a double sense: they looked to modern media to effectively raise the desire for social reform.



Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
Spinner in New England Mill, 1873

 

 



Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
Spinner in New England Mill, 1873

 

Photography as a contemporary visual means of communication

 

More recent photographic criticism customarily poses Hine as the anti-thesis of Alfred Stieglitz - an opposition that is only partially justified. Stieglitz attempted to create recognition for photography as a modern art form by arguing for elaborate noble-metal processes and an elegant finish. Exactly these qualities seem not to have interested Hine, at least not in the sense of an artful photographic practice. "When he became school photographer in 1905, he didn't know anything about cameras, lenses, technics," according to his biographer Elizabeth McCausland. "Even today, at 64, he will say with a naivete both lovable and sad: 'How is it that you make so much better prints than I do? Is it because your en larger is better than mine?'"

To attempt to conclude that Hine was not interested in technical photo-graphic questions would be false, however. What fascinated him was photography as a contemporary visual means of communication; what he ignored was the concept of the 'fine art print' as defended by the photographic community oriented on Stieglitz and his circle. And precisely here may lie the explanation for the low estimation that Hine and his work have received up to the present time. For example, Edward Steichen, chief curator for photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, showed no interest in 1947 in Hine's estate after his death in 1940. And even the evaluation of Susan Sontag, who held Walker Evans to be the most important photographic artist to have concerned himself with Am-erica, reveals something of the skepticism that art criticism has shown toward Hine's ceuvre primarily directed to social criticism. And yet Hine was in fact interested in formal and aesthetic questions and had, more-over, developed a visual vocabulary that could hold its own at the height of art-photography debates, being wholly based on the qualities intrinsic to the medium. In particular his early workers' portraits, according to Miles Orvell "endow their commonplace subjects with a dignity not in terms of an art-historical tradition, but in terms of a new vocabulary of representation that erased the existing ethnographic and documentary traditions of portraiture and established a new procedure for represent¬ing working-class character." But there were very few who recognized this truth during Hine's lifetime, not even a Roy Stryker, who roundly rejected Hine's application for work with the FSA project. Thus Lewis Hine died in 1940, impoverished and forgotten. He who had devoted himself lifelong to the social welfare of others had finally become a welfare case himself.
 


Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
New England Mill, 1873

 

 


Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
New England Mill, 1873

 

 


Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
New England Mill, 1873

 

 


Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
New England Mill, 1873

 

 


Lewis W. Hine
(1874-1940)
New England Mill, 1873

 

Lewis Hine
 

(b Oshkosh, WI, 26 Sept 1874; d Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, 4 Nov 1940).

 American photographer. Following several years as a factory worker in Oshkosh, and a short period at the University of Chicago, where he studied sociology and pedagogy (1900–01), he went to New York to teach at the Ethical Culture School (1901–8). There he acquired a camera as a teaching tool and soon set up a club and ran classes at the school, while improving his own skills as a self-taught photographer. In 1904 Hine’s interest in social issues led him to document newly arrived immigrants at Ellis Island as a way of demonstrating their common humanity, for example Young Russian Jewess at Ellis Island (1905). Thereafter he sought to demonstrate the efficacy of the photograph as a truthful witness, accepting commissions from social-work agencies. Towards the end of the first decade he became official photographer on the Pittsburgh Survey, a seminal investigation of America’s archetypal industrial city, producing such images as Tenement House and Yard (1907–8; Rosenblum, Rosenblum and Trachtenberg, p. 56).

 


Climbing into America, Ellis Island
New York, 1905
 


Group of Italians at Ellis Island
New York, ca 1905
 

Young Russian Jewess, Ellis Island
New York, 1905

 


Handicapped - Crippled Steelworker
 Pittsburgh,
1908

Playground in Mill Village
1909

 

Street Child
ca 1910

 

Three Girls on Street
ca 1910

 


Poor Home, New York City Tenement
1910
 


Newsie
ca 1912

Powerhouse Mechanic
1920

 

Man on girders, mooring mast
Empire State Building
New York, ca 1931

Man on hoisting ball
Empire State Building
New York, 1931

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