The face of immigration in the early 1900s
Famed photographer Lewis Hine is best known for his documentation of child labor and photographs of the Empire State Building. His photos of child workers helped expose the hazardous conditions and abuse children were facing all over America that lead to new regulations on child labor.
While his work may have covered some hard-to-look-at topics, his photos were always visually striking. One of his lesser known projects consisted of documenting immigrants coming through Ellis island.
In 1901 Hine was a teacher at the Ethical Culture School in New York City. Not only did he serve as the nature study and geography educator of the school, he also worked as the school's photographer. He soon began utilizing photography as a teaching tool for his students. One way he incorporated art into his curriculum was with a project which would teach his students to be accepting of the immigration boom happening in their own city. Hine and the superintendent of the school, Frank Manny, wanted to instill the same respect the children had for the original settlers on the current immigrants in America.
Several years later Hine would quit his teaching job and go undercover to expose child labor for the National Child Labor Committee until 1917. During WWII, the Red Cross would hire him to document the relief mission in France and the Balkans. Lewis Hine would continue to lend his expertise to charities and government programs that aimed to make a difference for many years to come.
Even though his images are renowned by photographers and historians alike, Hine died living in poverty in 1940.
Lewis Hine has been honored as a master American photographer and will forever be known for his contributions to America and those whose voices could not be heard.
The photographs featured in this article are some of the beautiful portraits he made during his visits to Ellis Island.