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Lewis Hine: The WPA National Research Project Photographs, 1936-37

Main Gallery

April 15 - July 2

lewis hine, Picket Yarn Mill, High Point, North Carolina, 1936-37  Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37  6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches

Picket Yarn Mill, High Point, North Carolina, 1936-37

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

Lewis Hine - Two girls stamping glass jars in the art room at T. C. Wheaton Company. Millville, New Jersey, 1936-37 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37 6 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.

Two girls stamping glass jars in the art room at T. C. Wheaton Company. This is a stamping device developed by this company for lettering painted bottles. Ink is put under the screen in which there are perforations for the lettering, and the jar is rolled over the top of it. The girl in front is controlling the lever which presses the jar as it rolls over the screen. T.C. Wheaton Company, Millville, New Jersey, 1936-37
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37
6 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.

Lewis Hine - Glass paint Sprayer, T.C. Wheaton Co. - Millville, New Jersey, January 1937

Glass paint Sprayer, T.C. Wheaton Co. art room. This man is spraying white glass cold cream jars, with a hand blowing torch. This is one of the new processes developed by T.C. Wheaton. The jars are put on the forms by a girl who sits at the other side of the machine. They revolve around to this worker who sprays them. The girl then takes the jar off and replaces it with a new one. T.C. Wheaton Company, Millville, New Jersey, January 1937
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937
4 5/8 x 6 5/8 in.

Lewis Hine, Worker finishing the end of a sulphur determinator. L.G. Nestor Co., Millville, NJ, March 26, 1937

Glass worker finishing the end of a sulphur determinator. Here the worker is smoothing off the end of the tubing after heating it over the glass flame. L.G. Nestor Co., Millville, NJ, March 26, 1937

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Lewis Hine - Jere, mine tripple - Mine Bankrupt and closed since December 1935. The camp of this mine is considered a stranded community. Scott's Run, West Virginia, December 1936

Jere, mine tripple - Mine Bankrupt and closed since December 1935. The camp of this mine is considered a stranded community. Scott's Run, West Virginia, December 1936

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936
4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Barber-Colman High Speed Warper, Pacific Mills, Manchester, New Hampshire, April 1937  Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937  4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Barber-Colman High Speed Warper, Pacific Mills, Manchester, New Hampshire, April 1937

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Lewis hine, Rayon skein wrapped in cloth, Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937  Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937  4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Rayon skein wrapped in cloth, Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

Lewis hine, Scrap metal junkies breaking up old looms, to be sold for scrap iron and said to be sent to Japan for munitions, Paterson, New Jersey, 1936   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936   4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Scrap metal junkies breaking up old looms, to be sold for scrap iron and said to be sent to Japan for munitions, Paterson, New Jersey, 1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936 

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

lewis hine, After drying, the skeins are taken from the rack and each skein is put on a swift of the winding machine, Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937   6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches

After drying, the skeins are taken from the rack and each skein is put on a swift of the winding machine, Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, 1936-37  Gelatin silver print: printed c.1936-37  4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, 1936-37

Gelatin silver print: printed c.1936-37

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

Lewis Hine, Setting eyes in sleeping dolls, Paragon Rubber Co. and American Character Doll, Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1936   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936   4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Setting eyes in sleeping dolls, Paragon Rubber Co. and American Character Doll, Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936 

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

lewis hine, Applying filling to a channel back chair, Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Co., High Point, North Carolina, 1937   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937   6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches

Applying filling to a channel back chair, Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Co., High Point, North Carolina, 1937 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

Lewis Hine, Stationary steam engine built by M.W. Baldwin before 1830, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, May 1937   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937   6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches

Stationary steam engine built by M.W. Baldwin and used in his first shop (making tools) before 1830 and later in the first Baldwin Locomotive Works. Overhead shafting and belts carried power to a number of machines. Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, May 1937 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

Holyhoke, Massachusetts, c.1931  Gelatin silver print; printed c.1931  4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Holyhoke, Massachusetts, c.1936

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

lewis hine, Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Co., High Point, North Carolina, 1936-37  Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37  4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Co., High Point, North Carolina, 1936-37

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936-37

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

lewis hine, Machinist shaping a section of a driving-rod for largest locomotive, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, March 1937   Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937   4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Machinist shaping a section of a driving-rod for largest locomotive, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, March 1937 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937 

4 5/8 x 6 5/8 inches 

Lewis Hine, Cabinet repair man preparing to cut a piece of veneer. RCA Victor, Camden, New Jersey, March 4, 1937

Cabinet repair man preparing to cut a piece of veneer - to replace a section of veneer damaged during the assembly of the cabinet. This is all hand work and the worker must be a skilled, experienced cabinet-maker. RCA Victor, Camden, New Jersey, March 4, 1937

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches

Lewis Hine, Silk skeins on winding creels or swifts. Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937

Silk skeins on winding creels or swifts. Paterson, New Jersey, March 18, 1937

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

6 5/8 x 4 3/4 inches

Press Release

NEW YORK— A tale of collective ingenuity and individual perseverance in the shadow of national crisis is the subject of Lewis Hine: The WPA National Research Project Photographs, 1936-37, on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from April 15 through July 2. The Great Depression ravaged the United States in the 1930s, producing extreme levels of poverty and unemployment with a deep and penetrating social pessimism to match. Whereas some photographic endeavors of the time sought to document the misery and misfortune of those hardest hit by these conditions, Lewis Hine set out to photograph the opposite: the rebuilding of society taking place in the nation’s most technologically advanced sites of production, and the persistence and skill of the factory workers who made all of it a reality.

 

Established in 1935 as a division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the goal of the National Research Project (NRP) was to investigate new industrial technologies and their effects on employment. Lewis Hine was hired by the WPA to show the modernizing accomplishments of the nation’s factories in the years prior to WWII, particularly those being fitted for the most sophisticated forms of industrial production. Hine focused most specifically on the reorganized workplaces that were created by these modernizing efforts. It was during this time, for example, that women began entering the factory floor and joining the assembly line, and in the case of Hine’s photographs, were being called upon to help produce many of the country’s newest and most elaborate technologies.

 

As a pre-eminent pioneer of American photography, Hine was most prominently known for chronicling the unjust and oppressive social conditions of his day, work which helped lead to the passage of the National Child Labor Laws in 1938. Eager to depict these new facets of technology, Hine photographed factory workers in textiles, furniture, cabinet making, radio manufacturing, construction, and mining, among others, in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Fueled by his belief that labor was the soul of America, Hines’s portraits depict the dignity and industriousness of the individual worker at a time when industry was so often documented as a national endeavor. 

 

Lewis Hine: The WPA National Research Project Photographs, 1936-37 presents more than 70 images. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted of Hine’s NRP photographs. The exhibition was inspired by the research of photographic historian Judith Mara Gutman. She writes in her 2018 book Lewis Hine: When Innovation Was King (Steidl/Howard Greenberg Library) that “Hine produced a cross-section of American working life….[and] imbued his photographs with a singular importance that elevated them beyond the generally accepted role of photographs as illustration to text.”

 

More than 80 years later, the photographs from the New Deal programs, and of the NRP in particular, underscore photography’s capacity for capturing the resilience of the human spirit in the face of historically challenging conditions. The work that Hine produced is emblematic in this regard, showing as it does what a nation is capable of when individual potential is coordinated and harnessed for the collective good.