Around the same time Charles Reznikoff was observing the inequalities of the American legal system sociologist Lewis Hine was documenting America’s immigrants and child labour. Hine was the official photographer of the National Child Labour Committee (NCLC) and had a view to exposing unethical labour practices in the United States. As a sociologist he kept detailed notebooks to accompany his images and to provide additional testimony as such he was probably the world’s first visual ethnographer. Text and images with sociology and visual arts also meant he was amongst the first multimedia interdisciplinary photographic artists. Although Hine never referred to himself as an artist and neither did the art community it seems. MOMA rejected the offer of his archive in 1951. Hine’s images had such an effect on American political society that they were instrumental in the lobbying for the drafting of the Child Labour Amendment Bill and the subsequent act which Franklin D Roosevelt signed into law. Roosevelt referred to Hine as ‘ The most American American I ever knew.’
Had Reznikoff worked with Hine I imagine they would have produced something powerful and revolutionary along the lines of Agee and Evan’s collaboration ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ which explored the rural poor in 1930’s America. I think this would be one of my top ten books that never was.
I’ve written this from memory and here are the books I drew on to check the facts and find out more here are the references,
Mauro, Alessandra, and Marcello Flores. 2007. My Brother’s Keeper: Documentary Photographers and Human Rights. Rome: Contrasto.
Panzer, Mary. 2002. Lewis Hine. New York: Phaidon.
Agee, James, and Walker Evans. 2006. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. London: Penguin.