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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Lewis W. Hine

Born: Lewis Wickes Hine 
Other: Lewis Hine 
Dates:  1874, 26 September - 1940, 3 November
Born:  US, WI, Oshkosh
Died:  US, NY, Dobbs Ferry
Active:  US
American photographer concerned with social issues in New York, Pittsburgh and as photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) throughout the USA. He also carried out documentary projects on the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in New York and on the construction of the Empire State Building.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Hine was a sociologist who took up photography in 1904 in the cause of social reform. He documented immigrants arriving at Ellis Island then followed them in their harsh new lives in the slums of America. In 1907, Hine photographed the Pittsburgh iron and steel workers revealing employment of children under grueling, dangerous conditions. As staff photographer to the National Child Labor Committee from 1911 to 1917, Hine’s photographs exposed the negative consequences of a growing consumer society and contributed to the passing of child labor laws. In the 1920s, he embarked on "positive documentation" by making portraits of the working man. His landmark book about the construction of the Empire State Building,Men at Work, was published in 1932. 
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Spink & Horton
Portrait of Hine as small child standing by drum 
1876 (ca)
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Exhibitions on this website

Theme: Documentary
ThumbnailLewis Hine and Child Labor Reform 
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20th century masters
ThumbnailLewis Hine in Hastings-on-Hudson 
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Visual indexes

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Supplemental information


Lewis W. Hine

Lewis Hine, who was best known for his use of photography as a means to achieve social reform, was first a teacher of botany and nature studies at the Ethical Culture School in New York. It was while he was teaching that he was given a camera by the head of the school. In his hand, the camera became a powerful means of recording social injustice and labor abuses.
Hine's interest in social welfare and in reform movements led him in 1905 to begin his first documentary series; immigrants on Ellis Island. In 1908 he left teaching to become an investigator and photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), and between 1908 and 1916 he traveled extensively photographing child-labor abuses. Hine would manage to gain access to the sweatshops and factories where children were employed, and then, if he could, photograph them at work. Hine inveigled his way into factories by posing as an insurance agent, bible salesman, postcard seller, or industrial photographer. Once inside, Hine quickly would go about his business of photographing the children working. Having been a teacher, Hine was comfortable talking with children and would attempt to get as much information as possible regarding their living conditions, the circumstances under which they were forced to work, and their name and age. If he was unable to determine a child's age by speaking to him, Hine would surreptitiously measure the child's height against the buttons on his vest and estimate the child's age by his height. If Hine was not able to gain admittance to a factory, he would wait outside the gates and photograph the children as the came to work. He visited children and families who worked at home and he wrote with impassioned sarcasm of the "opportunities for the child and family to enlist in the service of Industry."
Hine's photographs were used to make lantern slides for lectures and to illustrate pamphlets, magazine articles, and exhibitions. Through his photographs, Hine was able to inspire social change. His photos documenting the horrid conditions under which children were employed, made real the plight of these children. This led to the passage of child labor laws. Not only did Hine document the horrors of work, he also depicted the dignity of labor. This is best seen in his photos of the construction of the Empire State Building. From 1930 to 1931 he took hundreds of pictures of the Empire State Building under construction. These photos, as well as photographs of factory workers and other laborers, were published in Men at Work. While Hine's early photographs were often published, by the 1930s, interest in his work had declined. In 1938 he was denied a grant to photograph American crafts people at work. The Photo League in New York publicized his work, but it was not until a number of years after his death that he again received wide recognition. A new monograph was recently printed entitled, Lewis W. Hine Children At Work by Vicki Goldberg.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery]

Additional information
Several other key books about Lewis Hine are no longer in print:
  • Gutman, Judith Mara, 1967, 'Lewis Hine and the American Social Conscience', New York, NY.: Walker and Company
  • Gutman, Judith Mara, 1974, 'Lewis W. Hine, 1874-1940: Two Perspectives', New York, N.Y.: Grossman Publishers
  • Curtis, Verna Posever and Mallach, Stanley 1984 'Photography and Reform: Lewis Hine & The National Child Labor Committee'. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Milwaukee Art Museum
A French scholar, Frédéric Perrier, who is working on Lewis Hine has also produced:
  • M.A thesis: 'Immigration and Social Reform: Lewis Hine, His Patterns of Personal Growth and Creative Expression - 1874-1918' Advisor: Pr. John Dean. Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France. 2002.M/li>
  • D.E.A thesis: 'Lewis Hine: Influences et Etude Biographique -- 1874-1901' ('Lewis Hine: Influences and Biographical Study - 1874-1901') Advisors: Pr. John Dean and Pr. Jacques Pothier. Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France. 2004.
He is currently working on Hine's end of career (1930-1940).
In January 1939 a retrospective of Lewis Hine's documentary photography (1905 to 1938) was held at the Riverside Museum, N.Y. City (now the Nicholas Roerich Museum) organized by Elizabeth McCausland, Beaumont Newhall and the photographer Berenice Abbott. They "rediscovered" Hine who at that time felt isolated; as Daile Kaplan wrote: "For Hine it [the retrospective] symbolized the recognition he had long sought as an artist." [1] The show was sponsored, among others, by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, Willard and Barbara Morgan, and by social workers such as Paul Kellogg, Florence Kelley, and Frances Perkins. The Retrospective was then shown at The Des Moines Fine Arts Association Gallery in Iowa, and at The New York State Museum, Albany, N.Y. Appraising his work, Hine had said: "There were two things I wanted to do. I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected; I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated." [2]
  1. Kaplan, Daile, Photo Story, Selected Letters and Photographs of Lewis Hine, (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992) p. 143.
  2. From the article Portrait Of Lewis Hine by Robert W. Marks (Coronet, February, 1939) pp. 147-157.
Thanks to Frédéric Perrier for his assistance with this page. 

Internet biographies

Terms and Conditions

Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
 Go to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.] Go to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography. Go to website

Internet resources

Terms and Conditions

Lewis Wickes Hine - Ellis Island Series ... 
Lewis Wickes Hine‘s "Work Portraits" ... 
Lewis Hine - Empire State Building ... 
Lewis Wickes Hine - Let Children Be Children (traveling exhibit) ... 
Lewis Wickes Hine - Empire State Building Series ... 
Lewis Wickes Hine - Selected Prints ... 
Lewis Wickes Hine, (negatives) ... 
Hastings Historical Society 
The Hastings Historical Society (The Historical Society of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, 407 Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706 - 914/478-2249) has two important connections with photography. One is some of the later work of Lewis Hine who was resident in the town and the other is the collection on the Draper family. 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.104 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.250-251 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.218 [Includes a well written short biography on Lewis W. Hine with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Lewis W. Hine.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.163-164 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.250 
• Koetzle, Hans-Michael 2002 Photo Icons: The Story Behind the Pictures - Volume 1 (Koln: Taschen) [This book discusses one photograph "Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill (1908)" by Lewis W. Hine in considerable detail. An excellent source for a detailed analysis.] 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.105, 107 
• Naef, Weston 2004 Photographers of Genius at the Getty (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) [For this photographer there is a description and three sample photographs from the Getty collection. p.84-87] 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Lewis W. Hine are included in this classic history.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.60 [Analyzes a single photograph by Lewis W. Hine.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Lewis W. Hine was represented in 105 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 


The wit and wisdom.

"If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn‘t need to lug around a camera."
"Photography can light—up darkness and expose ignorance."
"There were two things I wanted to do. I wanted to show the things that had to be corrected; I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated."
"While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph."
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