The Industrial Photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine and Margaret Bourke-White

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Smith, C. Zoe. "An Alternative View of the Thirties: The Industrial Photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine and Margaret Bourke-White. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism, Lansing, MI, 8-11 August 1981. Available ERIC ED204770.[1]

"After returning from Europe in 1919, Hine documented men on the job. Believing his earlier photographs, especially those done for the National Child Labor Committee, had emphasized only the negative aspects of industrialization, Hine decided to turn his camera on the affirmative aspects of the Machine Age," leading to his first significant collection, Men at Work and an image of "the laborer-as-hero" (Smith pp. 5-6). Smith gives in full the brief preface to Men at Work, which begins with the idea that "Cities do not build themselves, machines cannot make machines, unless in back of them all are the brains and toil of men. We call this the Machine Age. But the more machines we use the more do we need real men to make and direct them" (p. 7). Smith contrasts Hines, who had a much more romantic (and lucrative) career; relevant here, "Whereas Hine talked about industrialization in terms of man's mastery over the machine, Bourke-White seems not to have appreciated or understood man's relationship to industrialized society. To her, machines were a series of beautiful patterns to which she attributed human qualities. Just how the machines or bridges or mills or dams or storage tanks came to be built apparently did not concern her; instead, she was fascinated by their Gargantuan size and their intricate details" (Smith 10). Smith quotes Bourke-White to the effect that, "During the rapturous period when I was discovering the beauty of industrial shapes, people were only incidental to me […]" (Portrait of Myself p. 110, quoted in Smith p. 11).

This is a useful paper for beginning a discussion of intersections of technology with gender, class, and esthetic theories in action.

RDE, Initial Compiler, 30May17