Even though Lewis Hine was a sociologist and a Sociology professor, it was as a photographer that he became well know. Actually, he understood photography as a teaching method, a way of studying and spreading one of the areas in which he always took an interest: work. Hine became famous for his extensive coverage of child labour, which we've already discussed. During the 1920s, he made a series of work portraits, that ironically documented the importance of human labour for modern industry. It was this curriculum that led him to be offered his most famous photographic documentary: an account of the construction of the Empire State Building, in New York.
Construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930 and employed about 3400 workers, most of them were European immigrants, and a few hundred were Mohawk Native Americans who, it is said, didn't suffer from vertigo. Hine found a perfect setting for his photographs here. Under huge risks, he followed the construction, side by side with the workers themselves, sometimes in conditions as poor as theirs. The images make your flesh creep. They show the working conditions, that lacked any kind of security, with people in a delicate balance and acrobatic poses, that trusted God or luck not to fall. It's strange that even in these conditions only five workers died in work accidents during the construction. After the building was finished, Hine published a book with the photographs he took. It was named Men at Work. The photographs below are his.
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