“Our Strength is Our People:” The Humanist Photographs of Lewis Hine

“Our Strength is Our People"

“Our Strength is Our People:” The Humanist Photographs of Lewis Hine

LewisHine_Sadie_300x138.jpgThe Art Museum at University of Saint Joseph will present the exhibition “Our Strength is Our People”: The Humanist Photographs of Lewis Hine from Jan. 13 -March 19, 2017.  In conjunction with the exhibition, Alison Nordström, Ph.D., independent scholar and curator of photographs, will deliver the Vincenza Uccello Fine Arts Lecture, Lewis Hine: Artist and Activist, on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in Hoffman Auditorium. Life on the Lower East Side: New York 1900-1930, an exhibition of prints and drawings from the private collection of Ken Ratner,is also on view. The Art Museum, located in Bruyette Athenaeum on USJ’s West Hartford campus at 1678 Asylum Avenue, is open Tuesday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Thursday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.; and Sunday: 1 - 4 p.m.; closed Monday.  Admission is free of charge.

Examining the immigrant and working class experience in early 20th century America, “Our Strength is Our People”: The Humanist Photographs of Lewis Hine features rare vintage gelatin silver prints spanning the thirty years of Hine’s career as a documentary photographer.   It addresses major themes of early 20th century America: the immigrant struggle and cultural assimilation, child labor and the working class, and concludes with striking images from the construction of the Empire State building.

Lewis Wickes Hine, a sociologist and pioneer in the field of documentary photography, aimed to portray a progressive and empathetic view of immigrants in America, contradicting views of them as criminals, carriers of disease, and contaminants of America’s Anglo-Saxon identity.  In his funding proposal to the Guggenheim Foundation for the project he titled “Our Strength is Our People,” Hines states, “This project should give us light on the kinds of strength we have to build upon as a nation. Much emphasis is being put upon the dangers inherent in our alien groups, our unassimilated or even partly Americanized citizens – criticism based upon insufficient knowledge. A corrective for this would be better facilities for seeing, and so understanding, what the facts are.”

The Guggenheim Foundation declined to fund his project, but Hine’s photographs are as powerful today as when they were created. They not only portray the dignity and pride of America’s new immigrant labor force, which served as the backbone of American industry, but also underscore the destructive effects of laissez-faire capitalism on workers, particularly the exploitation of minors before Congress set national child labor laws in 1938. Hine’s photographs reveal America as a both a beacon of hope for immigrants, and a melting pot plagued by injustices.

All works in “Our Strength is Our People” are from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. This exhibition was organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions. At the University of Saint Joseph, support is provided by the Karen L. Chase '97 Fund and Friends of the Art Museum.