a1 Georgetown University
The origin of Lewis Hine's invention of social documentary photography can be found in his intellectual alliance to pragmatism. Reading Hine's photographs as primary sources of the author's intent, in context with Hine's progressive intellectual milieu and in contrast with his contemporaries, Jacob Riis and Alfred Steiglitz, reveals Hine as a self-conscious and tolerant commentator on the lives of individual immigrants and workers. Although Hine left the objects of his portraits mostly unnamed, through his documentary style, he conferred upon them individual identity in contrast to the nativism, exploitation, and social Darwinism that surrounded immigration issues in the early 1900s. Through his images, Hine transmitted his own perceptions of 1900s New York City, especially Ellis Island. Since Hine was inspired by William James's formulation of “lived experience,” the historian can read Hine through a lens of James's philosophy, solving the pragmatist problem of communicated language by replacing words with images.
Kate Sampsell Willmann is an intellectual historian currently on the faculty of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Doha, Qatar. Since completing a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2002, she has taught at Ankara's Bilkent University, Bradley University, and the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain. Her article is based on her book manuscript, “If I Could Tell This Story in Words…: Lewis W. Hine and the Intellectual History of the Social Document,” currently under review with the University of Mississippi Press. A graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, she has practiced as an attorney in Baltimore.
1 I owe a debt of gratitude to Alan Trachtenberg and the anonymous JGAPE readers, all of whom saw merit in finding the ideas of the photographer. The staff of the George Eastman House in Rochester was, as always, professional, helpful, and interested in the work, and the Bradley University Library worked overtime finding resources from the 1900s. My late friend Thomas Winter deserves a special mention for pushing me to write on the Progressive Era and introducing me to JGAPE. Finally, I thank Doug for everything.