Documenting "The Other Half": The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine
Photography and Social ReformJacob RiisLewis HineSlideshows

Lewis Hine

Analysis of Hine Photographs

Social Photographer

National Child Labor Committee

Work Portraits

Analysis of Hine Photographs

The power of Lewis Hine's images was in their composition—the posing, lighting, and subject matter, which all worked together to appeal to viewers' emotions.

Humanizing Subjects

Like Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine believed that environmental causes were responsible for many problems of the poor. However, unlike Riis, Hine attempted to incorporate his subjects by emphasizing their humanity.

Hine understood that many immigrants came to America to seek a better life. His early photographs depict hopeful families arriving at Ellis Island.


Tenement Families
Like Riis, Hine took many photographs of families in tenement dwellings. However, Hine's subjects are often smiling and engaged in the task at hand.


Hine's goal was to create intimate, personal human portraits. To accomplish this, he often photographed his subjects directly in front, from the waist up, establishing an equality between the subject and the viewer. Hine's subjects often looked directly into, or just to the side of, the camera. This method gave the impression that the viewers knew or could identify with the subjects.


Street Child

Hine shifted his camera angle downward in some of his factory shots to show the relationship between the workers and their environment.

Mill Boys, Fall River

Hine also juxtaposed his subjects to illustrate class differences.

Newsie, Danny Mercurio

Unlike Riis, whose photographs projected a grim view of New York City slum life, Hine's photographs showed the quiet dignity of individuals whose circumstances could improve with help.


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2000-2003