Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lonsdale, RI - Mill houses

Welcome! This is my first attempt at blogging. I’m not sure if I quite know what I’m doing, but hopefully I’ll figure out more as I go along.

Anyway, I’ll spare you a more thoroughly boring intro and try to keep my words to a minimum (well, at least in the future), as I’m hoping you’re here to look at photos!

I am currently in a Master’s of Arts teaching program and this semester one of my classes is “Social Studies in the Elementary School.” The book we are using for class is called Connecting Children with Children Past and Present by Eula T. Fresch and on its cover has a sepia-toned picture of a young girl at a mill. To make a long, long story as short as possible, over the last few weeks our professor has given us background information on that photo, its photographer, and links to the Library of Congress’ website where more photos (by the thousands!) by this same photographer can be found. The photographer, of course, is Lewis W. Hine. In a few short weeks, I’ve become mildly obsessed by his work and life. (Hence the blog!)

One day I was poking around on the Library of Congress’ website, looking over some of the photos Hine took in my home state of Rhode Island, and I instantly recognized a row of three mill houses taken in nearby Lonsdale, RI. Last Saturday, I printed out a copy of Hine’s photo of these houses and drove right over to Grant Ct., where these houses appear and took a comparison photo. You’ll see both pictures below:
Photo taken November 1912
Housing conditions, Lonsdale, R.I.
Photo taken February 2008
The more I look at Hine’s photo, then back at mine, I still expect to see that lady there in the street, don’t you?

Anyway, this one photo has led me to research more locales of where Hine shot his photos and for me to try to find as many places that still exist today. My goal of this blog is to share what I’ve found, but who knows, maybe my interest will be contagious and you can send me your findings as well. “Crazier things have happened,” as I like to say.

From what I can tell, Hine took photos in many states, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin.

With the help of Google Maps’ “Street View” function (when available), I’ve been able to do a bit more research and in future posts, I’ll show you some photos I recently took in Boston (where I work), finding more matches of where Hine took some of his shots. Yes, this is what I’ve been doing on my lunch hour in 20 degree weather!

I’ll tell you, I’m certainly not taking these photos for anyone to make any kinds of comparison in Hine’s photography versus mine. I’m really just snapping these shots quickly, interested in seeing what still exists and how much certain things like buildings, streets and modes of transportation have changed over time. Hine accomplished more than enough in taking these shots initially, eventually exposing child labor across this country that led to the enactment of labor laws that are still held up today. Be warned, though, if you go on a hunt to re-shoot one of these places, trust me, you’ll never look at it quite the same way again.

I have reflected on some of the photos I have taken so far -- either onsite or when I compare the photos to Hine's afterwards and I almost expect those same people to be in the photos I take. It’s a little bit of an eerie feeling, I’ll admit. It reminds me of visiting the Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg, PA … is it me, or when you look out over those fields and squint, don’t you see all of those soldiers, too?

Lewis W. Hine photograph credit:
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection, LC-DIG-nclc-02708

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