The Documentary Imagination of Lewis Hine
'The highest aim of the artist’ wrote Lewis Hine in 1906, 'is to have something to relate and to know how to select the right things to reproduce that story ...'
He was thirty-two at the time, a teacher of nature study and geography, and had taken up photography as a tool to help his students focus their attention and develop discipline. Now he is hailed as the 'father of documentary photography' – but for Hine, photography was neither self-expression, nor merely a way to capture the expressions of those he photographed, it was a way to illuminate the world, to foster knowledge, understanding and sympathy. Although he learned to use a camera as a teacher, it was not far to go from elementary school 'show and tell' to social investigation. Education was a major plank in the reform platform, and social investigation was widely practiced before Hine arrived with his camera.