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Hines and Riis’ Photographs Analysis


Jacob Riis was a police reporter working for the New York Times paper that ensured that information on the poor working conditions was brought to light. In his works, Riis advocated for better working conditions, better housing, enough lighting, sanitation, and construction of city parks in different cities of the country. To alleviate the extended pain and misery, Riis believed that those who were rich could contribute to the poor to have better living conditions for the others. On the other hand, Lewis Hine was a New York City educator and a strong reformer who had developed unique photographing skills. His reforms fought against child labor and other poor social conditions that were speeding in that era. Over the years, his work of photography had been accepted by different platforms as the best way of documenting events in history (Davis, p.1).

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With the increasing industrialization across the whole country in the 19th century, there were increasing cases of infectious diseases. The rise in the number of immigrants contributed to the rapid spread of diseases. The increase in demand for cheap housing by the immigrants led to increasing in poor housing conditions and loss of hygienic conditions. The expansion of industries was a benefit for others but also increased the need for workers. Factory workers had to deal with long working hours, poor working conditions, and job insecurity. To make things worse, during the recession period, many of the workers ended up losing their jobs. However, this was no better for those who took their position after the recess as they found the working conditions of the factories hard to handle. They had to work for more than ten hours for six days a week. Besides, those who were in agricultural farms hard to work on a variety of tasks.

As Hirschman and Mogford (p.902) state, there was a huge need for government regulations as their absence led to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. In other cases, there were more child labor issues with some firms and industries enrolling children for cheaper labor, thus increasing their profit margin. The photographs by Riis and Hine present the poor working conditions, including child labor cases during the time. With the changing industrialization, factories started to incorporate some of the jobs that were formally done by women at their homes. At some point, factory working hours made women spend more hours with their husbands in the same industry and thus contributed significantly to the growth of the sector.

With passing time, during changing democracy between the 1820s and 1830s, movements were formed by women to advocate for equality. At that point, there was an open platform for women to join politics as a way of advocating for their needs. In the later year of 1836, women formed an antislavery movement to fight against slavery as it was one of the cheap sources of labor. From the above discussion based on the photographic documentation of the events between the 1800s and 1920s, workers unions are still viable and can be valuable in improving some of the working conditions in factories (Hirschman and Mogford, p.900). Through them, it is possible to improve wages to ensure that they meet the nations set standards. Also, unions do improve medical covers and the wellbeing of the workers, including improving their health care covers.

Work Cited

Hirschman, C. & Mogford, M. Immigration and the American Industrial Revolution from 1880 to 1920. 2009, 38(4), 897-920. Retrieved from

Davis, K. Analysis of Hine photographs. University of Virginia. 2003.

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