Lewis Wickes HineAmerican (Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 1874 - 1940, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York)
Woman with Folded Headdress, Ellis Island, NY
A self-taught photographer, Hine first experimented with a camera while teaching at the Ethical Culture School in New York. Beginning in 1904, he regularly visited Ellis Island to photograph new arrivals to America. Once a factory worker himself, Hine empathized with poor immigrants and laborers, and he dedicated his photographic career to improving their welfare.
In his portraiture Hine attempted to counter widely held beliefs that immigrants were dangerous, diseased, or even subhuman. He wanted to dignify them, to show they were just like other Americans: beautiful, healthy, and vibrant. Many of the women he photographed wore headdresses, such as this one, and some held children in their arms. Hine titled one such image Italian Madonna, suggesting a relationship to the Virgin Mary and, perhaps, the biblical flight into Egypt, when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus sought refuge from persecution.