Published: April 3, 2001
WORCESTER ART MUSEUM EXHIBIT FEATURES LEWIS WICKES HINE
WORCESTER, MASS. -Although best known for his early Twentieth Century portrayals of child laborers and immigrants at Ellis Island, the important American documentary photographer Lewis Wickes Hine produced a significant, yet less recognized body of work during the 1930s. The exhibition, “Lewis Wickes Hine: The Final Years,” open through June 1 at the Worcester Art Museum, will present more than 40 prints from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s extensive Hine holdings. The show’s strong Depression-era images of machines and adult laborers reveal the photograph’s shift in subject matter during the last decade of his life, while underscoring his ability to champion social causes for the working class.
During the 1930s, Hine undertook a series of projects for the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Research Projects, jobs driven by the desire to keep his name before the public and by his own economic hardship. (He died penniless in 1940, at age 66). “His images of machines without people are some of the most surprising works in the exhibition,” states Brennan. “They represent Hine’s attempt to impress Roy Stryker, head of the Farm Security Administration photo project, who suggested Hine depict urban and rural subjects without people.”
While Hine’s earlier work depicting the harsh realties of child labor showed the danger and horrors of the industrial age, his later images of adult laborers-photographs of women in New England mills, migrant field hands in the South and construction workers in New York, for example-seemingly show more positive images of an industrialized society. Nevertheless, the photographs serve to document the inherent danger of machines and the threat of loss of work altogether. “Viewers will be particularly fascinated by the Hine images documenting the construction of the Empire State Building,” notes Brennan. “The way he was able to orchestrate this project was nothing short of incredible. To take these photographs, he had to carry his large format view camera up scaffolding and shoot from great heights.”
“Lewis Wickes Hine: The Final Years” will run through June 10. A tour of the exhibition, “Hine Sight,” will be conducted by Museum docent Pat Peterson on Wednesday, April 11 at 2 pm and on Saturday, April 14, at 2 pm. The tour is open to the public and free with Museum admission. Hours are Wednesday, through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm and Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. Telephone, 508-799-4406.
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