Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) was a pivotal figure in the history of American photography. Instrumental in developing the social documentary genre, he is probably best known today for his photographs of immigrants at Ellis Island, child laborers, and European war refugees, and for his later celebrations of industrial worker - a series he referred to as Work Portraits. As early as 1914 Hine also coined the term photo story to describe creative assemblages of photographs and text. These were designed to make powerful educational and artistic statements on the printed page - twenty years before the editors of Life magazine "invented" the format.
Photo Story broadens the perspective on Hine by charting his pioneering role as both a social documentary photographer and photojournalist. Daile Kaplan includes material from his earliest years, 1904-12, as he made the transition from teacher to photographer at the Ethical Culture School in New York; through the spring of 1918, as he photographed war refugees and relief programs for the American Red Cross throughout Europe; to 1920-39, as he chronicled the construction of the Empire State Building and completed Work Portraits for corporations and federal agencies. The book features previously unpublished credos, diary entries, and letters exchanged with such important figures of the photographic, art, and social welfare communities as Beaumont Newhall, Walter Rosenblum, Berenice Abbott, Elizabeth McCausland, Roy Stryker, and Paul U. Kellogg. The letters to his longtime collaborator Kellogg, the editor of the Survey Graphic, form the book's centerpiece. Often witty and lyrical, the letters reveal Hine's early influences in the social welfare community; his views about Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession (a group of art photographers, led by Stieglitz, who eschewed social photographs for soft-focus, mood-manipulating images); and his perception of his own photographs as "art." The correspondence sheds light on his decision to become a freelance photographer and pursue the Work Portraits; his attempts to be hired by the Farm Security Administration's photographs division; his debt to Newhall, Abbott, and McCausland for rediscovering him in the late 1930s and mounting the Riverside Museum retrospective; and his financial struggles in the postwar years.