The work of American photographer and sociologist Lewis Hine (1874–1940) called for a better world. Hine was adamant in his wish that Americans become aware of the injustice in their nation's legal system. A firm believer that every human being deserved full respect, Hine saw photography as the best tool to make this both visible and compelling. To fulfill his mission, Lewis Hine traveled 75,000 km throughout the United States for organizations such as the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), taking photographs of children at work in agriculture, in mines, industrial factories, garment factories, and on the streets. His images not only contributed to a new awareness and the first reforms against child labor. They are also some of the earliest and most important contributions to the genre of social documentary photography.
Hine is also known for his humane portraits of European immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in New York (often departed from the Wilhelmina Pier!) At the beginning of the last century he made his famous book about the construction of the Empire State Building, Men at Work (1932).
Today, a hundred years later, the issues remain the same: Europe is experiencing a period of intensive migration that will only increase with time. Child labor may be a thing of the past, but only because Europeans have outsourced the manufacturing sectors that operate with child labor to distant lands. In 1930, Hine was commissioned to document the ambitious construction of the Empire State Building in New York. Together with his son Croydon he captured more than 1,000 pictures of the dizzying work (14 builders died on the job) on the 381-metre-tall architectural icon.
Fotomuseum Winterthur presents this comprehensive retrospective with 170 works and ample documentation in cooperation with Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid), Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris) and Nederlands Fotomuseum (Rotterdam). All works courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, USA.
Curator of the exhibition: Alison Nordstrőm
Fotomuseum Winterthur Website