Lewis Wickes Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on 26th September, 1874. He studied sociology in Chicago and New York (1900-07) before finding work at the Ethical Culture School. Hine, who had purchased his first camera in 1903, employed his photographs in his teaching and established what became known as documentary photography.
As a school teacher, Hine was especially critical of the country's child labour laws. Although some states had enacted legislation designed to protect young workers, there were no national laws dealing with this problem. In 1908 the National Child Labour Committee employed Hine as their staff investigator and photographer. This resulted in two books on the subject, Child Labour in the Carolinas (1909) and Day Laborers Before Their Time (1909).
Hine travelled the country taking pictures of children working in factories. In one 12 month period he covered over 12,000 miles. Unlike the photographers who worked for Thomas Barnardo, Hine made no attempt to exaggerate the poverty of these young people. Hine's critics claimed that his pictures were not "shocking enough". However, Hine argued that people were more likely to join the campaign against child labour if they felt the photographs accurately captured the reality of the situation.
After his successful campaign against child labour, Hine began working for the Red Cross during the First World War. This involved him visiting Europe where he photographed the living conditions of French and Belgian civilians suffering from the impact of the war. After the Armistice Hine went to the Balkans and in 1919 he published The Children's Burden in the Balkans (1919).
In 1930-31 recorded the construction of the Empire State Building which was later published as a book, Men at Work (1932). This was followed by another assignment from the Red Cross to photograph the consequences of the drought in Arkansas and Kentucky.