Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in cotton mill – Term Paper

Lewis Hine Sadie Pfeiffer

Lewis Wickens Hine created his documentary photography print of Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in a cotton mill. This image was taken at around 1910 by Lewis using gelatin silver print with a dimension sheet of 11 x 14 1/16 in (Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner In Cotton Mill, North Carolina, Lewis Wickes Hine). It is an image that is finished and smooth, and its details can be viewed clearly with ease. As the title of the picture suggests ‘Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in a cotton mill,’ it is an image that is a young girl that was taken in a cotton mill while she was working. It clearly suggests a time when people used to work in cotton mills in America. Lewis Wickens was an educator in Chicago and New York but turned to be a film believer who used his power of knowledge to eradicate the evil (Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner In Cotton Mill, North Carolina, Lewis Wickes Hine). Lewis Wickens was very determined to expose the evil on children in the working places and also show that it can be stopped. He used his photographs to reveal the truth and poor working conditions that the children in cotton mills were going through. The image belongs to the J. Getty Museum located in Los Angeles. The image of the young girl as a cotton mill worker depicts the deplorable conditions that poor kids went through and it was very instrumental in the passing of the labor rules in America (Freedman, Russell and Lewis Wickes Hine).

In describing the Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in cotton mill image, it appears that the girl in the picture is young and stands poised between a big milling machine that she seems to work.; The clothes that the girl is wearing looks to be shabby and wrinkled. The girl seems to be close to a window that illuminates the looming machine room with the large spinning cotton machine. The cotton loom seems to be extended behind the young girl, and even at the far end, it is evident that there is another woman seems to be old and as well she seems to be working. The girl stands to face the looming machine with her left side facing the side of the camera lens. The light from the window illuminates the left aspect of the girl probably leaving the right side in the relative shadow where it cannot be viewed. From here, one can tell that the girl has long hair that is braided on the left side of her head. Space at which the girl and the other woman worker far behind are standings seemed to be narrow and squeezed in between the looming machine and the wall with the windows. The left hand of the girl seems to be touching on the machine probably she is working as well as the lady far behind appears to be working. The machine that the two workers seem to be tall enough and comparing the girl with the other woman worker, the machine seems to dwarf the young girl (Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner In Cotton Mill, North Carolina, Lewis Wickes Hine).

Describing the Sadie Pfeiffer

In analyzing the image by Lewis, lines, shapes, space, colors, as well as a medium all, combine to give the clear view of the picture. What appears to be prominent and eye catching about the picture is the color. The photo seems to have been taken using a lens that does not explicitly give the actual color of the components in the room. It appears that it is probably black and white. There appears to be lights that illuminate from the window, and a clear shadow of the wall confirms the intensity of the light that is going through the windows to the room. Another critical component of the image is the horizontal lines that show are created by the wall behind the two workers. The shapes found in the picture are not many, and the one that is significant is that of the oval-like containers that are lined in the three rows along the looming machine. The space in the image is paramount in bringing out the artistic quality. In the foreground is the young girl and a section of the milling machine, as well as two windows with apparently opened curtains, are seen. The background of the image features another worker who is elder than the girl, and at the same time, a bulb seems to hang on top of her. Several windows, as well as the other part of the machine, appears in the background. The woman at the background seems to be in the middle thirds of the image. Another thing to note about the artistic space in the image is the negative and positive space. The positive space depicted from Lewis photo is the area covered by the machine and the little girl as well as the other woman worker while the negative space is the space between the wall and the workers near the machine. Combining all these decorative features including the image being smooth and finished brings out the clear view of Lewis image at the early times in America;s mill industries.

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Lewis image of the Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in a cotton mill was taken at a time when there was a lot of oppression of the workers in the U.S especially children who came from poor and middle-class backgrounds. As one of his initiative, Lewis took on his feet to use the camera as a social documentary tool and show people what a mess was and needed to be corrected. As many factories were cropping up at the time of Lewis photography work, there seemed to be oppression that he took to his feet to fight. As a strategy, at times he used to sneak to the warehouses and factories under pretense to take the photographs of those children that were used as laborers (Freedman, Russell and Lewis Wickes Hine). By using pencil and a pad, he used to record the heights and the names of the children workers. All the events that he underwent while in these industries was a mission that he was given by the National Child Labor Committee. It unfolded events that were very instrumental in making the laws that protected the children from oppression by employers. From this image captured by Lewis on his mission, it clearly depicts that children suffered from working under harsh conditions in this cotton mills. One fundamental issue that illustrates the suffering from the image is the state of working in the large machines compared to the age and the experience of the children. At such times, it required a lot of courage to come out and expose the industry owners for the evil of exploiting the kids. One man that made that happen was Lewis through his photography work. This picture is a clear reminder of what happened at early times in most American industries, and on starring on it, one should not take it for granted as it took courage for Lewis to expose what was going on in those industries (Freedman, Russell and Lewis Wickes Hine).

Looking at the image that Lewis took many years ago, it seems normal and a simple image that many don;t even get what it stands for and advocates. That seems harsh, but the truth is that looking keenly and closely at it, it brings in the real meaning of what it stood for then and now. The right of the children against oppression and child labor. All the artistic features starting from the color, although black and white, space, as well as the lines all, combine to bring the real meaning of the image ;fight against child labor and oppression.’ That was a significant step that was made by Lewis that saw the propelling of the passage of the child labor laws which helped the children rights then and is still doing so until now. Lewis showed an excellent example by being brave to expose the evil that was going on in the industries through his images of children at works that he always took. It was a tough time when children used to suffer but being a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee for about ten years, Lewis work was not at all in vain, but its fruits are even enjoyed until today. As it is evident today, the oppression of children as laborers has reduced and is even no more thanks to the pioneers of the fight against it who took the time to express it in the artistic elements to reach all the people. 

Work Cited

Freedman, Russell and Lewis Wickes Hine. Kids At Work. 1st ed., New York, Clarion Books, 1994,.

Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner In Cotton Mill, North Carolina, Lewis Wickes Hine. 1st ed., J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department, 2009,.