TIME Behind the Photos

Colorized Photos of Child Laborers Bring Struggles of the Past to Life

Lewis Hine spent ten years documenting their dangerous conditions

Lewis Hine was one of the first photographers to use photography as a tool to document social conditions, particularly those which he believed “had to be corrected.” Chief among these was the practice of child labor, especially in the Carolina Piedmont, where Hine hoped his images would help bring an end to the unsafe conditions to which children were subjected.

In nearly a decade serving as the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, beginning in 1908, Hine shed light on the ways in which putting children to work compromised their ability to be children, and in some cases, to stay alive.

Though child labor in America was significantly reduced by laws passed during the Great Depression, recent studies show that as many as half a million children still work in agriculture across America, and several states have rolled back restrictions on child labor in recent years.

TIME commissioned freelance photo editor Sanna Dullaway to colorize several of Hine’s most iconic photographs.

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden and the host of a new monthly column on TIME LightBox on colorized photography. See more of her work here.

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