The Radical Images of Lewis Hine, Documentary Photographer

September 27, 2014 4:39 PM

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The Radical Images of Lewis Hine, Documentary Photographer

Many great photographers -- including Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Milton Rogovin, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange (the subject of a recent PBS documentary) -- have used the camera as a weapon in the struggle for social reform. Perhaps the most successful documentary photographer in American history was Lewis Hine, who was born 140 years ago this week (September 26, 1874). His photos exposed the scandal of child labor as part of a national reform campaign. He may be less well-known than other muckraking journalists of his generation, such as Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens, but his work was a key part of the Progressive Era reform movement that made America a more humane society.

The sky had not yet begun to brighten on a chilly February morning in 1911 when the first workers arrived at the seafood cannery in Biloxi, Mississippi. Slipping in after them was a slender man carrying cumbersome camera equipment. Hine was not allowed in the cannery. But he had no qualms about snea...

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