Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program

Young girl hugging woman

Lewis W. Hine

A staff member for the National Child Labor Committee from 1906 to 1918, Lewis W. Hine traveled the United States, camera in hand, to document children at work in sweatshops, in slums, in factories, and on farms. Over a thirty-year period, Hine's photographs were used to advocate for legislation against the exploitation of children and, in 1938, were instrumental in convincing Congress to include child labor reforms in the Fair Labor Standards Act. One of contemporary history’s most ardent artist-activists, Lewis Hine helped lay the foundation for the social documentary photographic tradition in America. 

Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Overview

Founded on the spirit, values, and actions of Lewis Hine, the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program connects the talents of young documentarians with the resources and needs of community-based organizations.

The Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program places Fellows with organizations seeking creative solutions to the specific problems faced by women, children, adolescents, and young adults in socially and economically disadvantaged areas. Though Fellows work in host organizations, fellows also have an opportunity to engage directly with the social fabric of communities: parents, schools, health clinics, and other local structures. For both Fellows and host organizations, work with mothers and youth is an integrated pathway into community life.

Focus on Women, Adolescents, and Children 

The Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program is part of a long-standing commitment to youth-focused work at the Center for Documentary Studies. Over the years CDS has been home to a number of courses and programs that cultivate and amplify the voices and perspectives of children, including such innovative projects as Literacy Through Photography, Community Stories, Youth Document Durham, and Children and the Experience of Illness. The Hine Fellows Program joins these CDS efforts to emphasize the special concerns and conditions of women and youth.

Documentary Perspectives

Lewis Hine Fellows take on responsibilities both in the home office and in the field. As they become immersed in their surroundings, Fellows develop ways that their observational and technical documentary skills can contribute to the missions of host organizations. 

During their fellowships, Fellows produce in-depth documentary projects that address key concerns of host organizations and the communities they serve. Using writing, photography, audio, and/or video, Fellows create portraits that connect individual lives to broader social and political issues. In doing so, they attempt to render the experience of youth and their families in ways that reach beyond statistics and sensationalized media with a goal of affecting social change.

As Lewis Hine Fellows work with communities, they are encouraged to develop documentary projects that are collaborative in their approach. Fellows teach the tools of their trade to local participants, asking them to photograph, write, or conduct interviews about issues central to their daily lives. Fellows then connect these materials with their own projects, creating documentary projects that are not just about, but also by, the people with whom they work. Engaging in documentary work ensures the fundamental right of young people to participate in broader conversations that affect their lives.