(United States of America 1874–1940)
11.7 x 16.5cm image/sheet
Raymond Bykes, Western Union No. 23, Norfolk, VA. Said he was fourteen years old. Works until after 1:00 A.M. every night. He is precocious and not a little "tough". Has been here at this office for only three months, but he already knows the Red Light District thoroughly and goes there constantly. He told me he often sleeps down at the Bay Line boat docks all night. Several times I saw his mother hanging around the office, but she seemed more concerned about getting his pay envelope than anything else. (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.
'Raymond Bykes, Western Union, Norfolk, VA' 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, From the street: photographs from the collection 1996, Sydney, 1996. no catalogue numbers
Martyn Jolly, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International photo-documentary', pg.151-167, Sydney, 2007, 152, 158 (illus.).
International Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jan 1991–14 Apr 1991
From the Street - Photographs From the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Apr 1996–14 Jul 1996