Essay Research: Lewis Hine

Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Lewis Hine’s book Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South (1986) show a selected number of photographs from Hines work photographing child labor. These images were used in campaigns for the National Child Labor Committee, they were used to illustrate their books, articles, and pamphlets. Hine’s photographs were used as evidence to expose child labor “Their realism provided powerful, irrefutable evidence of the horrors of child labor in all its forms-horrors that the mill owners, the New South boosters, and even the desperately poor parents of the child workers tried to deny. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) by looking at the photographs Hine hoped that it would make them realise what they were doing was wrong, and by showing the public these images too that they would join the National Child Labor Committee’s cause to put an end to it.

Hine himself believed that “Whether it be a painting or a photograph, the picture is a symbol that brings one immediately into close touch with reality. . . . In fact, it is often more effective than the reality would have been, because, in the picture, the non-essential and conflicting interests have been eliminated. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) the only voice the photographs Hine took are the viewers, they make you ask yourself if what you are seeing is right or wrong, should these children be working from the age of eight or younger? Some at three years old are already ‘learning the trade’. When Hine spoke to the mill owners and the parents they say that it builds character but most of the children and even their parents can’t read or write their own names. In the photographs, you don’t hear the thoughts of the people who are trying to justify it, or the voice of the National Child Labor Committee, unless they are being viewed in one of their articles or seen in one of their exhibitions. By showing the reality in his images Hine’s allows the viewer to make their own moral decision, however “The images of working children were meant to shock and anger their viewers, to rouse the public against a system Hine abhorred. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) the images did have a purpose and were meant to arouse a certain emotion in the viewers.

Hine’s was very emotionally involved in the work he did on child labor “He was genuinely concerned about the children he photographed. He met them as individuals; he spoke with them and listened to their stories. “ (Kemp and Hine, 1986) he wasn’t just there to take the pictures and move on and forget, he re-visited areas again to see if there was any improvement of their treatment towards the children as the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) made progress in helping change the laws on child labor in different states.

I am not sure whether I am going to include Hine’s book in my essay or not, I think that comparing it to Ferrato’s book works well as they both deal with social issues. They both also raise interesting questions on whether it’s ethically correct that the images were taken for their purposes.


Kemp, J.R. and Hine, L.W. (1986) Lewis Hine: Photographs of child labor in the new south.


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