Lewis Hine, Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles, 1918, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine and the Power of the Camera for Social Change

Lewis Hine, Paris Gamin, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house, 1920, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Candy Worker, New York, 1925, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Steelworker standing on beam, 1931, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.


Netherlands Fotomuseum
Wilhelminakade 332
+31 (0) 010 203 0405
Lewis Hine | Photography for a Change
September 15, 2012-January 6, 2013

Lewis Hine was an enthusiastic photographer who wished to improve people’s lives through his photos. His pictures of immigrants on Ellis Island, of child labour, and of workers busy on the Empire State Building high above New York belong as visual icons of the 20th century. The exhibition contains more than 200 photos and documents, many in their original state and originating from the collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York State. The exhibition is an initiative of three European institutions: Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris), Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid) and the Netherlands Museum of Photography (Rotterdam).

Lewis W. Hine (Wisconsin, 1874-New York, 1940), a sociologist and photographer, belongs to the group of photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Frank, Robert Capa, Eugène Atget to which Netherlands Museum of Photography has already devoted impressive exhibitions. Hine is a 20th-century pioneer of social documentary photography. He strongly believed in the camera’s powers of conviction. Thus, armed only with a heavy camera he fought for social justice. For the National Child Labor Committee he travelled more than 75,000 kilometres through the United States to photograph children working in agriculture, the mines, factories, sewing attics, and on the streets. His photos were partly responsible for reforms in these fields. The themes in Hine’s work – child labour, situations of human indignity, and the vulnerability of immigrants and refugees — are still current. Despite his present reputation, his early successes and the fact that many governmental organizations made use of his photos, he died totally impoverished in 1940.

Empire State Building and Building the Rotterdam In 1932 Lewis Hine published the famous photographic book entitled Men at Work, which covered the construction of the Empire State Building. From the most audacious vantage points he took photos of the 381-metre building, showing the strength and willpower of humankind, man’s contribution to industry. The tall buildings on the Wilhelminapier have determined the skyline of Rotterdam for many years, just as the Empire State Building did in New York around 1930. The Wilhelminapier is now under full development. De Rotterdam Building, designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architectural) will be completed in 2013-2014. The photographer Ruud Sies has followed the genesis of the largest building in the Netherlands for four years now. The project entitled Building the Rotterdam — a work in progress by Ruud Sies was inspired by the work of Lewis Hine and establishes the connection with the Wilhelminapier as a historical location. To the Netherlands Museum of Photography, this is a reason to include this project in the exhibition of the work of Lewis Hine.

Exhibition With 170 vintage photos from the period 1903-37 as well as 42 documents, this exhibition of Hine’s work is the first extensive and well-documented overview in the Netherlands and even in Europe. Hine’s entire oeuvre is on show, ranging from his earliest portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island to his work in Europe after the First World War. The Lewis Hine touring exhibition was on display in Paris toward the end of 2011, and in Madrid at the beginning of this year. For this international journey, Hine’s work has undergone preventative preservation treatment and is exposed to a minimum amount of light. After the exhibition in the Netherlands, the work will return to the George Eastman House in America to relax in a dark depot.

Compilation: Alison Nordström, George Eastman House | Carlos Gollonet, Fundación MAPFRE Madrid | Agnès Sire, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson Paris | Frits Gierstberg, Netherlands Museum of Photography. Production of the Exhibition Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris | Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid | Netherlands Museum of Photography, Rotterdam. The exhibition has been made possible by support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Publication on Lewis Hine The publication consists of reproductions of photos and documents from the exhibition, an essay by Alison Nordström on the life and work of Hine, and comprehensive biographical information. At the same time, the publication contains a complete reprint of Men at Work from 1932, the only book Hine produced during his lifetime. Lewis Hine | SP, FR, ENG | Fundación MAPFRE/TF Editores | ISBN 978-84-9844-307-3 | Price € 39.50.

Lewis Hine, Man on hoisting ball, Empire State building, 1931, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Waiting for the dispensary to open Hull House District, Chicago, 1910, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, The Sky Boy, 1931, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Little Mother in the steel district, Pittsburg, 1909, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.

Lewis Hine, Lunch Time, New York, 1910, foto: Lewis Hine, George Eastman House.