Lewis Hine




Lewis W. Hine


American, 1874-1940

Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine was educated as a sociologist at the University of Chicago, during the years when John Dewey and Thorstein Veblen were on its faculty. He continued his education at New York and Columbia Universities, and taught at the School of Ethical Culture. (Among his students there was Paul Strand, whom Hine introduced to photography.) Hine was past thirty when he seriously took up photography; by instinct and by training he conceived of the medium as a means of studying and describing the social conditions around him.


Lewis Hine

He is today spoken of perhaps more often as a social reformer than as a picture-maker. He realized, however, that his pictures "proved" nothing; if they were to contribute to social change they must first affect the sensibilities of those who saw them. Much of Hine's work is not a protest but a celebration of people who had nerve, skill, muscle, and tenacity. There is in his pictures little pity and much love and respect for those who were casually called the common people.


Lewis Hine

Hine was one of the masters of a splendid new camera called the Graflex. For the first fifty-odd years of photography, the photographer had to compose and focus his picture upside-down on a groundglass in the back of his camera, then insert the holder that held the sensitive plate. Once the plate was in the camera, the photographer was shooting blind, unable to change either his framing or his focusing.



Lewis Hine

With the Graflex on the other hand, he saw his picture just as the camera would record it until the very instant that he pushed the trigger. This meant that he could frame his subject boldly, to the very edges of the plate; he could change his angle of view at the last moment; he could focus selectively on the most important plane of his subject, allowing the nearer and farther planes to be recorded out of focus. His picture is characteristic of the new kind of graphic economy and forcefulness that Hine helped discover for photography.

from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski




- Lewis W. Hine photo library -


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Lewis Hine / recommended books
Lewis Hine as Social Critic

This is the first full-length examination of Lewis W. Hine, the intellectual and aesthetic father of social documentary photography.





Lewis W. Hine: Children at Work

Lewis Hine traveled the United States from 1908 to 1918, photographing some of the millions of underprivileged children who labored as a regular part of the work force.




Lewis Hine

This beautifully produced volume, which includes a complete facsimile of Men at Work, is compiled from the collection of the George Eastman House, to whom Hine's son bequeathed his archive after his death. It includes both well-known series and recently discovered early works, plus rare family photographs, ephemera and a detailed chronology.


Lewis W. Hine: The Empire State Building (Architecture)

Lewis W. Hine's famous black and white photographs document the construction of the Empire State Building, the world's tallest building at the time. Hine pays tribute to the human spirit by dramatically contrasting the workers with the mammoth scale of the structure.



Lewis Hine quotes
  • Photography can light-up darkness and expose ignorance.


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