Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine once said: “There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work.”
Lewis Wickes Hine was an American sociologist and photographer whose work was instrumental in changing child labor laws in the United States.
Hine is my favorite photographer. Aside from being technically excellent, his black and white photographs are some of the most important ever taken. His record of the first half of the 20th century is a unique glimpse into the real lives of working-class America, and his work for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was instrumental in bringing about change for the nation’s children.
Hine’s work was not without risk. The immorality of child labor was hidden away from the wider public at the time, and his exposure of the underhand practices posed a threat to the industry. He was threatened with violence and death from factory foremen and would resort to wearing disguises such as a fire inspector or industrial photographer (making a record of factory machinery) in order to gain access to the workshops.
As a photo colourizer, my aim is always to try and connect with the photo subjects on another level, something not always possible with a black and white photo. Hine’s photos are perfect for this purpose as they are already very engaging pieces.
The eyes of the children are often the first thing we notice, and his photos are so crisp and focused that I believe the addition of color really helps to bring them to life.
As always in the digital age, it is easy to scroll past black and white photos without giving them a second glance, so I hope people will stop to look at these photos and learn more about the children pictured.
When researching the background to these photos my eyes were opened to the current problem of child labor around the world. It’s never really gone away from the time these photos were taken. Child labor is still an ugly truth across the world in 2018. I hope this article helps in some small part get people talking about it.
About the author: Tom Marshall is a professional photo colorizer who offers his services through his business, PhotograFix. You can also find his work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Image credits:All original images © Lewis Wickes Hine courtesy of the US Library of Congress. Colourised images © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018.