JF Ptak Science Books Post 1887
In working on an alphabet of the occupations of children in 1910/1920 America based on the photographs of the immortal Lewis Hine (and found via looking at other materials on the excellent Retronaut website), I came across this extraordinary image:
The detail seems to show lip rings on what I think is a very young woman. She is very slender (you can see very thin wrists), and is wearing a number of layers of clothes, not the least of which is a long white apron on top of which sit Civil-War-like shawls, She is stepping into the street, caught mid-stride. It looks as though it is frosty, the sidewalk and steps seem to have a thin veneer of ice It is cold. And she is carrying an ungainly, heavy burden, which might weigh half of her own weight. And she is young. And she has no gloves.
Where did she go?
It also that Hine--in his notes onthe back of the photograph-- identifies her with kindness and grace as a "tenement gleaner". (In my notes I was less kind and called her a "ragpicker" I'm a little ashamed to say. Mr. Hine taught me a lesson.) Gleaner.
Hine documented things that were part of everyday life that made cities like New York what they were, much of which went unnoticed, or scuttled by intentional indifference. People like this made the city run--then as now--and Hine was one of the early photographers in the United States who "discovered" these people and made their standing a cause of his life.
Like many other pioneers/artists/social observers, Hine (1874-1940) didn't fare so well in his later life. After four decades of huge service in photography, people became disinterested in his past/present/future work, and Hine lost his resources. And his house. And then, in a few years, his life. His personal collection of negatives and prints were given by a relative to the New York Photo League, but they were displaced when the League was dismantled in 1951. Unsettled, they were offered out to places like the Museum of Modern Art, which rejected the collection. Ultiamtely, fortunately, the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, accepted the collection and saved it from the unknown.
This image easily could have been Atlas, but Libertas seemed better.
Source: New York Public Library Digital Collection. "Photographs concerning labor, housing and social conditions in the United States. / L. W. Hine. "