Exhibit documents construction of New York landmark

American photographer Lewis Wickes Hine documented the construction of the Empire State Building at every stage of the building of this New York City landmark, from its inception in the bedrock to its appearance on the Manhattan skyline.

Fairfield University’s Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery, located in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arst, presents 51 of these photographs in the exhibition, “Lewis Hine: The Rise of a Landmark,” on view Sept. 12 through Nov. 26. Moffly Media is the exclusive media sponsor for special exhibitions at the Thomas J. Walsh Gallery during the 2013-14 academic year.

Besides being a photographer, Hine taught botany and nature studies at New York City’s Ethical Culture School from 1901 until 1908. In his photography, he used his lens to highlight the bleak realities of a nation caught in the thrall of progress and mechanization. Committed to the cause of social welfare, Hine focused his Graflex on child laborers, immigrants and the working poor, immortalizing their plights and ennobling their lives.

Many of his photographs were commissioned by investigatory bodies, including the National Child Labor Committee, Tennessee Valley Authority and American Red Cross. Hine himself referred to his photographs of the working poor, including those on view in the exhibit, as “work portraits” — a nod to his steadfast desire to capture character as well as historical fact.

“More than an art form, photography was for Lewis Hine a critical instrument, capable of promoting enlightenment and education by exposing prejudice, marginalization, and exploitation,” said Jill Deupi, director and chief curator of university museums. “In the nearly 1,000 exposures he took of the mammoth skyscraper as it rose wondrously, Hine was demonstrating his commitment to memorializing mankind’s capacity for ‘productive’ energy (his term), interwoven with an innuendo of moral judgments and social imperatives. The result, to which this exhibition bears ample witness, is a visceral record of the collision of man, nature and technology.”

“Lewis Hine: The Rise of a Landmark” was organized by George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. The Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery is free and open to the public. For more information and directions, call 203-254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396 or visit fairfield.edu/quick.