History of Photography


History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 8



LEWIS HINE  (collection)
AUGUST SANDER  (collection)





to 1946


Lewis W. Hine  (see collection)

see also: Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

Lewis Hine, whose sociological horizons gave his images focus and form, was a photographer in touch with his time. When the twenty-seven-year-old Hine came east in 1900 from his birthplace in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to teach natural sciences, he already had experienced the exploitation of the workplace that he was to spend a good part of his life documenting. His first serious photographs were made in response to a desire on the part of his principal at the Ethical Culture School in New York to use the camera as an educational tool. As an arm of the Progressive Movement, the school sought in photography a means of counteracting the rampant prejudice among many Americans against the newly arrived peoples from eastern and southern Europe., so, besides recording school activities and teaching photography, in 1904 Hine began photo-graphing immigrants entering Ellis Island. Notwithstanding the chaos of the surroundings, his inability to communicate verbally, and his cumbersome 5x7 inch view camera and flash powder equipment, he succeeded in producing images that invest the individual immigrant with dignity and humanity in contrast to the more common distanced view.

In 1907, after convincing a group of social welfare agencies that photographs would provide incontrovertible evidence for their reform campaigns, Hine (along with graphic artist Joseph Stella) was invited to participate in The Pittsburgh Survey, a pioneer sociological investigation of working and living conditions in the nations's most industrialized city; after this experience he left teaching and set himself up as a professional "social photographer." From then until 1917, he was the staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, traveling more than 50,000 miles from Maine to Texas to photograph youngsters in mines, mills, canneries, fields, and working on the streets, in order to provide "photographic proof" that "no anonymous or signed denials" could contradict. The images were used in pamphlets, magazines, books, slide lectures, and traveling exhibits (pi. no. 466), many of which Hine organized and designed.

Toward the end of the first World War, when die waning interest in social-welfare programs became apparent, Hinc went overseas as a photographer on an American Red Cross relief mission to France and the Balkans. On his return, he embarked on a project of "positive documentation," hoping to portray the "human side of the system," which he felt should be recognized by a society convinced that machines run themselves. This period started with a series of individual portraits—"Work Portraits"—which were critically acclaimed although not greatly successful financially, and culminated for Hine in his 1930 commission to photograph the construction of the Empire State Building. The photographer followed its progress floor by dizzying floor, clambering over girders and even being swung out in a cement bucket to take pictures. At the conclusion of the project, he organized a number of the images along with others from the "Work Portrait" series into Men at Work, a pioneering photographic picture book that featured good reproduction, full-page bleeds, and simple modern typography.

The last decade of Hine's life coincided with the Great Depression, but while F.S.A. photographers were given the opportunity to produce a stirring document of social conditions, the photographic programs of the agencies for which Hine worked—the Rural Electrification Agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Works Progress Administration—had little creative vision concerning the use of photographs in this manner. The frustration of Hine's last years was offset to a degree by the efforts of Berenice Abbott, Elizabeth McCausland, and the Photo League to rescue his work from oblivion with a retrospective exhibition in New York in 1939.


466. LEWIS HINE. Making Human Junk, c. 1915.
Poster. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Profile: August Sander
  (see collection)

see also: August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

August Sander's dream was to create a visual document of "Man in 20th-century Germany." He hoped that through a series of portraits, sequenced in a "sociological arc" that began with peasants, ascended through students, professional artists, and statesmen, and descended through urban labor to the unemployed, he would make viewers aware of the social and cultural dimensions as well as the stratification of real life. After the publication of only one volume, which appeared in 1929 as Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), this ambitious project was banned as presenting a version contrary to official Nazi teachings about class and race, and Sander was forced to abandon it.

Born in 1876 in a provincial village near Cologne to a family deeply rooted in traditional peasant culture, Sander was introduced fortuitously to photography while employed as a worker in the local mines. He soon began to make straightforward, unretouched portraits of local families; this approach, along with his later apprenticeship as a photographer of architectural structures and his training in fine art at the Dresden Academy of Art, helped establish the hallmarks of his mature vision. Though for a time the portraits he turned out in a commercial studio he opened in Linz displayed his mastery of Pictoriaiist techniques, he preferred, as he wrote in a publicity brochure for another of his studios a few years later, "simple, natural portraits that show the subject in an environment corresponding to their own individuality." This attitude soon found its fruition in the grand project that began in earnest after the end of the first World War.

A thoughtful man, well-read in classical German literature, Sander drew his ideas from the twin concepts of physiognomic harmony and truth to nature. The former (discussed in Chapter 2) held that moral character was reflected in facial type and expression, a notion that the photographer enlarged upon by introducing the effect of environment on creating social types as well as typical individuals (pi. no. 447). Sander was convinced also that universal knowledge was to be gained from the careful probing and truthful representation of every aspect of the natural world-—animals, plants, earth, and the heavens. To this rationalist belief he added an ironic view of German society as a permanent, almost medieval hierarchy of trades, occupations, and classes.

Sander's circle of friends in Cologne during the 1920s included intellectuals and artists, many of whom were partisans of the New Realism or New Objectivity. While the work of these artists may have influenced his ideas, it is at least as possible that the simple frontal poses, firm outlines, and undramatized illumination visible in paintings by the German artists Otto Dix and Edwin Merz, for example, owe something to Sander's portraiture; that all shared a belief in the probing nature of visual art to dissect truth beneath appearances also is evident.

The suppression of Sander's work by the Nazis was followed by the harassment of his family and the loss of many of his friends in the arts, who were either in exile or had been put to death. Sander, forced to turn his camera lens to landscape and industrial scenes, sought in landscapes of the farming communities of his native region to insinuate a suggestion of the historical role of the human intelligence in shaping the land, while the detailed close-ups of organic forms may have been meant as symbols of his abiding faith in the rational spirit. He survived the second World War, the deaths of several family members, and the loss of his negatives in a fire, to find his work republished and himself honored by photographers throughout the world.

AUGUST SANDER. Young Mother, Middle-Class, 1926


Profile: The Historical Section Project, F.S.A.


The photographic documentation sponsored by the U.S. government under the auspices of the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration, known popularly as the F.S.A. project, is a paradigm of what can be accomplished when sensitive photographers working with a stubborn yet visionary director are given opportunities and financial and psychological support in their efforts to make visual statements about compelling social conditions. When Roy E. Stryker, a former teacher in the Economics Department at Columbia University, was called to Washington in 1955 to head the Historical Section under the direction of the New Deal planner Rexford Guy Tugwell, he envisaged an effort that would use photographs to record the activities of the government in helping destitute farmers. Ultimately, the project demonstrated that the New Deal recognized the powerful role that photographs played in creating a visual analogue of the humanistic social outlook voiced in the novels, dramas, and folk-music of the period. Now regarded as a "national treasure," this documentation was the work of eleven photographers: Arthur Rothstein, Theo Jung, Ben Shahn. Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Carl Mydans, Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, John Vachon, and John Collier (listed in the order in which they were hired). All of them helped shape the overall result through their discussions and their images.

Rothstein, a former Columbia University student who was the first photographer hired, set up the files and dark-room and recorded the activities of the section before being sent to the South and West. While on assignment in drought-stricken regions in 1936, where he made the famous Dust Storm, Cimarron County (pi. no. 450), he also photographed a bleached steer skull in several positions; it was an experiment that precipitated a bizarre political controversy about the truthfulness of images made under government sponsorship and raised questions concerning the legitimacy of social documentation. In its wake, some documentary photographers supported the photographer's right to find essential rather than literal truths in any situation, while others, notably Evans, insisted on absolute veracity, maintaining that for images to be true to both medium and event, situations should be found, not reenacted.

The painter Shahn, employed by the Special Skills Department of the Resettlement Administration, may have been the most persuasive voice in shaping attitudes and approaches on the project in that he convinced Stryker that record photographs were not sufficient to dramatize social issues, that what was needed were moving and vibrant images that captured the essence of social dislocation. Briefly instructed by Evans in the use of the Leica, Shahn had made candid exposures in New York streets for use in his graphic art. He displayed a vivid understanding of the dimensions of documentation; his discussions with Stryker and the other photographers helped clarify the need for interesting and compassionate pictures instead of mere visual records whether they portrayed inanimate objects or people. In themselves, his images reveal a profound social awareness and a vivid sense of organization that captures the seamlessness of actuality (pi. no. 471).

Although quite different, the rigorous aesthetic and craft standards maintained by Evans, who was employed by the section for about two years, also broadened Stryker's understanding of the potential of photography to do more than record surface appearances. The only photographer to consistently use the 8 x 10 inch view camera (as well as smaller formats), Evans photographed extensively in the South, engrossed by its "atmosphere . . . smell and signs." His subjects were exceptionally diverse, including portraits, interiors, domestic and factory architecture, folk craft, and popular artifacts (pi. no. 472). Of all the section photographers, he was least in sympathy with the social implications of the project and regarded with indifference Stryker's call for file photographs and the bureaucratic restrictions of the project. Therefore Evans was not unhappy to receive a leave in 1936 to work with the writer James Agee on an article about tenant farmers for Fortune magazine. Following this experience and the resulting publication, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Evans's work frequently seems to lack focus and intensity.

The compassionate vision of Lange, "the supreme humanist, also influenced Stryker and the direction taken by the section, even though they were at odds over the question of printing, which the photographer preferred to do herself rather than leave to the darkroom technicians at the F.S.A. A former portraitist trained in the Pictorialist aesthetic, Lange was employed first on a California rural relief project, where her innate capacity' to penetrate beneath appearances was recognized. Concentrating on gesture and expression, and possessing the patience to wait for the telling moment (pi. no. 451), she seemed able to distill the meaning of the crisis to the individuals involved in terms that die nation at large could understand. On occasion, her pictures actually impelled authorties to take immediate steps to relieve suffering among migrant farm families. After leaving the project in 1940, Lange continued to work on her own in the same tradition, producing a memorable series of photographs of Japanese-Americans who had been unjustly interned by the federal government during the hysteria that accompanied the opening of hostilities between Japan and the United States.

Of the other photographers, both Mydans and Jung worked on the project for relatively short times. Lee, called "the great cataloguer" by Lange, took over Mydans's place when the latter was asked to join the staff of the newly established Life, and he remained with the section the longest. Though Lee was most committed to amassing as complete a visual record as possible, his images celebrate individuality' and spunk and display a wry humor (pi. no. 468). Post Wolcott, one of the relatively few female professional newspaper photographers of the time, was hired in 1938, when the direction of the project was being shifted toward a more positive view of the activities of the F.S.A. (pi. no. 469). Delano, whose W.P.A. photographs of a bootleg mining operation in Pennsylvania came to the attention of Stryker when he was looking for a replacement for Rothstein in 1940, was also expected to make positive images, but a long stay in Greene County, Georgia, where he was among the first to photograph prisons and labor camps, resulted in moving evocations of anguish and loneliness (pi. no. 470). Vachon, hired originally as a messenger, was responsible for the ever-growing picture file. Taught to handle a camera by both Shahn and Evans, Vachon saw his pictures begin to find their way into the file, and in 1940 he was promoted to photographer. Collier, the last hired for the project, barely had time to work in the field before the Historical Section was transferred to the Office of War Information in 1942.

The interrelationship between photographer, government agency, and public was crucial to the formation of this unique document, and it owes much to Stryker's capacity' to direct the project toward ends in line with the New Deal's goal of offering minimal assistance to those being permanendy displaced from the land by economic and social factors. Despite a certain resistance to the poetic resonance of camera images, and an autocratic attitude toward the use and cropping of the photographs; despite a willingness to bow to demands for superficial and positive images of the American experience, Stryker was an effective buffer between photographers, bureaucrats, and the press, and he created the conditions for an exceptional achievement. A small number of images in this extensive document have been consistently visible since die 1940s, when Stryker turned the collection over to the Library of Congress, whose archives are more accessible than those of other federal entities. Those few images have come to symbolize the documentary mode, but lesser-known works, along with images in other archives, also make vivid the degree of displacement suffered by the nation's rural population during the Great Depression.


467. BEN SHAHN. County Fair, Central Ohio, 1938.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

468. RUSSELL LEE. Second Hand Tires, San Marcos, Texas, 1940.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

469. MARION POST WOLCOTT. Family of Migrant Packinghouse Workers, Homestead, Florida, 1939.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C

470. JACK DELANO. In the Convict Camp, Greene County, Georgia, 1941.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

471. BEN SHAHN. Cotton Pickers, Pulaski County, Arkansas, 1935.
Gelatin silver print. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; gift of Mrs. Bernarda E. Shahn.

472. WALKER EVANS. Window Display, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Nov., 1935.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

(see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Walker Evans (November 3, 1903 – April 10, 1975) was an American photographer best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans' work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8x10-inch camera. He wrote that his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that are "literate, authoritative, transcendent." Many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums, and have been the subject of retrospectives at such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, Walker Evans was part of a well-to-do family. He graduated from Phillips Academy, in Andover, Mass. He studied literature for a year at Williams College before dropping out. After spending a year in Paris, he returned to the United States to join the edgy literary and art crowd in New York City. John Cheever, Hart Crane, and Lincoln Kirstein were among his friends.
Intimidated by the difficulty of writing great prose. Evans turned to photography in 1930. In 1933, he photographed in Cuba on assignment for the publisher of Carleton Beals' then-forthcoming book, The Crime of Cuba, photographing the revolt against the dictator Gerardo Machado. In Cuba, Evans briefly knew Ernest Hemingway.
In 1935, Evans spent two months at first on a fixed-term photographic campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October on, he continued to do photographic work for the RA and later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in the Southern states.
In the summer of 1936, while still working for the FSA, he and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans' photographs and Agee's text detailing the duo's stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. Noting a similarity to the Beals' book, the critic Janet Malcolm, in her 1980 book Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography, has pointed out the contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee's prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans' photographs of sharecroppers.
The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were "Soviet agents," although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd's wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evan's photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. Many years later, some of the subjects' descendants maintained that the family was presented in a falsely unflattering light by Evans' photographs. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue.
Evans continued to work for the FSA until 1938. That year, an exhibition, Walker Evans: American Photographs, was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the first exhibition in this museum devoted to the work of a single photographer. The catalogue included an accompanying essay by Lincoln Kirstein, whom Evans had befriended in his early days in New York.
In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title Many are Called. In 1938 and 1939, Evans worked with and mentored Helen Levitt.
It has been suggested[citation needed] that Evans provided the inspiration behind Andy Warhol's photo booth portraits, following the publication of 'Subway Portraits' in Harper's Bazaar in March 1962. Evans first experimented with photo-booth self-portraits in New York in 1929, using them to detach his own artistic presence from his imagery, craving for the true objectivity of what he later described as the "ultimate purity" of the "record method."
Evans, like such other photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, rarely spent time in the darkroom making prints from his own negatives. He only very loosely supervised the making of prints of most of his photographs, sometimes only attaching handwritten notes to negatives with instructions on some aspect of the printing procedure.
Evans was a passionate reader and writer, and in 1945 became a staff writer at Time magazine. Shortly afterward he became an editor at Fortune magazine through 1965. That year, he became a professor of photography on the faculty for Graphic Design at the Yale University School of Art (formerly the Yale School of Art and Architecture).
In 1971, the Museum of Modern Art staged a further exhibition of his work entitled simply Walker Evans.
Evans died in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1975. In 2000, he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.


WALKER EVANS. A Bench in the Bronx on Sunday


Illuminating Injustice: The Camera and Social Issues

In the late 19th century, the camera became a tool for providing authentic visual evidence of social inequities, in particular those relating to industrialization and urbanization. At the time, a small number of photographers either were commissioned or felt self-impelled to photograph unsafe and unsavory circumstances of housing and work. Such images became useful in the United States especially in campaigns undertaken by a sector of the middle class to insure regulation of the conditions of living and work for the immigrant working class. From this beginning, documentary style in photography emerged, eventually expanding to include images of conditions in rural areas and underdeveloped nations as well.

In general, documentary style embraces two goals: the depiction of a verifiable social fact and the evocation of empathy with the individuals concerned. Photographs of this nature were employed in conjunction with written texts, either in public lectures, printed publications, or exhibitions, and usually involving a series rather than a single image. This perspective reached a zenith between 1889 and 1949 in the work of Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, the photographers engaged by the Farm Security Administration, and a number working in the Photo League.

The documentary role eventually was taken over, and in the process transformed, by television journalism and by advertising, with the result that its strategics and rationales have become suspect among some contemporary photographers concerned with social issues. Nevertheless, the style still retains its strong appeal for those who are convinced that through a compassionate portrayal, the viewer might become emotionally disposed to support changes in inequitous conditions. This Album includes the work of photographers who were uniquely concerned with this approach to camera documentation.


473. PETER MAGUBANE. Fenced in Child, Vrederdorp, 1967.
Gelatin silver print.

474. LEWIS W. HINE. Breaker Boys in a Coal Mine, South Pittston, Pa., 1911. Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

LEWIS HINE  (see collection)

475. W. EUGENE SMITH. Tonwko in Her Bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972.
Gelatin silver print. W. E. Smith Foundation.

(see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

William Eugene Smith (1918-1978) was an American photojournalist known for his refusal to compromise professional standards and his brutally vivid World War II photographs.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Smith graduated from Wichita North High School in 1936. He began his career by taking pictures for two local newspapers, the Eagle and the Beacon. He went to New York City and began work for Newsweek and became known for his incessant perfectionism and thorny personality. Smith was fired from Newsweek for refusing to use medium format cameras and joined Life Magazine in 1939. He soon resigned from Life and was wounded in 1942 while simulating battle conditions for Parade magazine.
As a correspondent for Ziff-Davis Publishing and then Life again, Smith entered World War II on the front lines of the island-hopping American offensive against Japan, photographing U.S. Marines and Japanese prisoners of war at Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. On Okinawa, Smith was hit by mortar fire. After recovering, Smith continued at Life and perfected the photo essay from 1947 to 1954. In 1950, he was sent to the UK to cover the General Election, in which Labour, under Clement Attlee, was narrowly victorious. Life had actually taken an editorial stance against the Labour government, but Smith's essay was very sympathetic to Attlee. In the end, a limited number of Smith's photographs of working-class Britain were published, including three shots of the South Wales valleys. In a documentary made by BBC Wales, Professor Dai Smith traced a miner who described how he and two colleagues had met Smith on their way home from work at the pit and had been instructed on how to pose for one of the photos published in Life.
Smith severed his ties with Life again over the way in which the magazine used his photos of Albert Schweitzer. Upon leaving Life, Smith joined the Magnum photo agency in 1955. There he started his project to document Pittsburgh. This project consisted of a series of book-length photo essays in which he strove for complete control of his subject matter. Complications from his consumption of drugs and alcohol led to a massive stroke, from which Smith died in 1978.
Today, Smith's legacy lives on through the W. Eugene Smith Fund to promote "humanistic photography," which has since 1980 awarded photographers for exceptional accomplishments in the field.

W. EUGENE SMITH. From "Pittsburgh", 1955


476. LEWIS W. HINE. Ten-Tear-Old Spinner, North Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908-09.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

477. INGE MORATH. Buckingham Palace Mall, London, 1954.
Gelatin silver print.

478. MORRIS ENGEL. Rebecca, Harlem, 1947.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

479. JACOB RIIS. The Man Slept in This Cellar for About 4 Years, c. 1890.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of the City of New York.

JACOB RIIS  (see collection)

480. WENDY WATRISS. Agent Oranges,1982.
Gelatin silver print.

481. DOROTHEA LANGE. Grayson, San Joaquin Valley, California, 1938.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Dorothea Langc Collection.

DOROTHEA LANGE  (see collection)

482. SEBASTIAO SALGADO. The Drought in Mali, 1985.
Gelatin silver print.

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