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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lewis W. Hine: Junk Gatherers (Just Kids)


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A pair of truants, tending their father's mules, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Photo taken during school hours, near Oklahoma City. Boys are 9 and 11 years old: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917

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Eleven-year-old bakery worker Glenn Dungey. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917


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Eleven-year-old bakery worker Glenn Dungey. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917

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Alley scene, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917.


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Junk gatherers, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917

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Swipin' coal from the freight yards. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917

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Just kids. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917


[Small boy standing outdoors with dog].  Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Small boy standing outdoors with dog, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917


http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/nclc/00600/00666v.jpg

A pair of truants, tending their father's mules, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Photo taken during school hours, near Oklahoma City. Boys are 9 and 11 years old: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/nclc/05200/05213v.jpg

Eleven-year-old bakery worker Glenn Dungey. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, April 1917


Photos from National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress

4 comments:

manik sharma said...

tom,
glenn dungey the eleven year old appears in a number of photos...is there a connection ? great photos...

i wonder how hard it would be to dedicate your life to baking food only to serve your own hunger....at that age when you have dreams nights cannot wait for...i think they would have always walked into the junkyard thinking this would be the day they find something worth their lives....and i guess they did....everyday...because that are what lives are worth....a child should scramble not collect...

i guess that is why all stories have treasures stocked away on islands.....because u can't get there....u will never get there..u find your treasure here ,now..

TC said...

You're right, Manik, I think it's a greater loss to be forced to put your dreams aside when you're a child. Later on that inevitably happens to all of us, but as they say, that's life.

Lewis Hine believed in art as a tool for social vision and social reform. In this he was carrying on the work of the 19th century reform movement, which arose largely in reaction to the abuses of the early Industrial Revolution, in particular the exploitation of child labor.

He became the photographer of the National Child Labor Committee in 1908 and carried on this work of documentation over the next century. His work helped to effect change.

In later times that work fell into disrespect, largely because Hine was perceived as being out of step with modernism. Even the FSA photography project, which bore the marks of his influence, had no place for him. In the later 1930s he was unable to sell his prints, lost his house, went on welfare and died destitute in 1940.

But his work made a difference, it helps us to understand history. I know blogs are meant to be a place for the momentary, not for history. But some things do deserve remembering all the same.

Those photos of Glenn Dungey and of many of the other neglected and abandoned waifs to be seen in these Hine photos put me in mind, very strongly, of Dickens.

Dickens knew and suffered childhood poverty and wrote about it with emotion that endures. I think the same is true of Hine's camera work. Any disrespect of either of these artists based on the presence of emotional elements in their representation of human reality can only be grounded in a failure to feel the truth of history.

To "feel it on the pulses", as Keats said of the necessary work of the poet, remains the challenge as much as ever.

curtisroberts said...

Your summary of Hine's later career and fate is chilling. Out of step with modernism; that just kills me. It also prompts a longer consideration and discussion about artists, critics, dealers, editors, publishers and the public.

TC said...

Chilling, yes, and painful to consider.

We are left with the magnificent work which tells the sorrows of the soul of America in the time of Hine's close attention; the work is certainly in many ways bracing and fortifying; but we are left also to contemplate the pathos of the ruin of the individual artist who made these pictures.

The whims of taste and ups and downs of the market, as I'm sure I don't have to explain to you, surely command and demand more than they ought to, and exact, in many cases, a truly unkind toll.