(United States of America 1874 – 1940)
12.4 x 16.7 cm image/sheet
Tifton, GA Jan 1909. A family working in the Tifton Cotton Mill. Mrs A J Young works in mill and at home. Nell (oldest girl) alternates in mill with mother. Mammy (next girl) runs 2 sides. Mary (next) runs 1 ½ sides. Elic (oldest boy) works regularly. Eddie (next girl) helps in mill, sticks on bobbins. Four smallest children not working yet. The mother said she earns $4.50 a week and all the children earn $4.50 a week. Husband died and left her with 11 children. 2 of them went off and got married. The family left the farm 2 years ago to work in the mill. January 22, 1909. (National Child Labor Committee caption card)
Lewis Hine was one of America’s most important social documentary photographers. He was educated as a sociologist, and later taught science and photography at the Ethical Culture School in New York. One of his students was Paul Strand, America’s seminal modernist photographer. In the early decades of the 20th century Hine used photography as a tool to describe social conditions, relying on the veracity of the image as evidence which was used to substantiate claims made by progressive social reformist organisations.
'Dinnertime. Family of Mrs A J Young Tifton, GA' is from a vast survey Hine undertook between 1908 and 1918 for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) in which he investigated the working and living conditions of children across America. His combination of ‘straight’ photographic technique and information-rich captions enabled the succinct illumination of the human cost associated with exploitative employment practices. At the time his findings achieved massive circulation in newspapers, not only raising public awareness, but in his words: ‘My child-labour photographs have already set the authorities to work to see “if such things can be possible”. They try to get around them by crying “Fake” but therein lies the value of the data and a witness. My “sociological horizon” broadens hourly.’1
1. Goldberg V ed c1981, ‘Photography in print: writings from 1816 to the present’, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque pp 247–48
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Judy Annear, American beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Sydney, 2003. no catalogue numbers
Judy Annear, From the street: photographs from the collection, Sydney, 1996. no catalogue numbers
Martyn Jolly, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International photo-documentary', pg.151-167, Sydney, 2007, 152, 159 (illus.).
Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994.
Ten years on, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jan 1986–Jan 1986
Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989
International Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jan 1991–14 Apr 1991
Critic's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Apr 1994–10 Jul 1994
From the Street - Photographs From the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Apr 1996–14 Jul 1996
American Beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2003–27 Jul 2003