"Lewis Hine, Child Labor Investigator" opens at The Dorsky Museum

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"Lewis Hine, Child Labor Investigator" opens at The Dorsky Museum
Lewis Hine, “Israel April…,” 1912, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art 2019.005.047.

NEW PALTZ, NY.- The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz opened “Lewis Hine, Child Labor Investigator,”an exhibition featuring Lewis Hine’s powerful photographs for the National Child Labor Commission, which proved the exploitation of young children working in unsafe conditions and ultimately led to American child labor law reform.

“Lewis Hine, Child Labor Investigator” is on view from Feb. 6 – July 11, 2021, in The Dorsky’s Sara Bedrick Gallery. The exhibition is co-curated by Anna Conlan, curator and exhibitions manager, and Amy Fredrickson, curatorial and collections assistant.

In 1908, Lewis Hine (1874-1940) quit his job as a New York City school teacher and embarked on a mission for the National Child Labor Committee to photograph young children working in unsafe conditions, at a moment in U.S. history when there were no federal laws against child labor.

For the next 16 years, Hine traveled throughout the United States documenting the harsh lives of children, sometimes as young as four years old, who were working long days in factories, mills, farms and coal mines.

Hine understood the power of his photographs and their potential impact, and so did factory foremen. After his early photographs were published, implicated business owners claimed that Hine faked the images and stopped him from entering factories and farms. Undeterred, Hine went undercover, sometimes posing as a Bible salesman or an insurance agent, and often waiting outside factory gates for meal breaks or shift changes to photograph and interview the child-workers.

In Hine’s images we see children and families struggling to break cycles of poverty, many of whom were recent immigrants, working together to survive.

Using photography as a tool for social change, Hine captured thousands of photographs, conducted interviews and made field notes that helped shift public sentiment and convince lawmakers to introduce new regulations to protect children. While his unflinching photographs capture desperate situations, he recorded people’s images and listened to their stories with respect and compassion.

“Lewis Hine, Child Labor Investigator,” shares a collection of photographs generously and recently donated to the Dorsky Museum by Howard Greenberg.

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