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These compassionate portraits of newsies helped reform child labor

In the early 20th century, Lewis Hine photographed thousands of child laborers in the name of progressive social reform, including factory workers and miners. Newsies were a favorite subject. Hine did not have to sneak past factory bosses or photograph surreptitiously, allowing for less rushed photos and more in-depth interviews with his subjects.

Hine's photographs, mostly shot under the auspices of the National Child Labor Committee, were constructed as arguments for labor reform. Every individual portrait and story captured the squalid conditions and bright potential of each young worker, and the amassed collection of thousands of similar images created a call for change that was hard to ignore.

When photographing newsies and other young workers, Hine often lowered the camera to their eye level to accord them dignity and respect, while still capturing their vulnerability and exploitation.

Hine engaged his subjects in conversation, scribbling notes on a pad in his pocket with one hand while operating his camera with the other and estimating his subjects’ heights and weights.

The powerful photographs that Hine made in collaboration with his subjects became the face of the movement against child labor, and helped raise widespread public support for reform.

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