Can Pictures and Stories Create Social Change?

Strategic Philanthropy
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Lewis Hine Fellows Program is based at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS).  It is named for Lewis W. Hine who, a century ago, traveled the country with his camera to document children at work in sweatshops, factories, and farms.  Hine’s compelling photographs were instrumental in the passage of child labor reform laws and the Lewis Hine Fellows Program works to bring about similar social change.


[caption id="attachment_159" align="aligncenter" width="270" caption="Glimpse from the Mill - Lewis Hine, 1908"][/caption]


The Hine Fellows Program seeks to connect the talents of young documentarians with the resources and needs of organizations serving children and their communities around the world.  Originally launched internationally, in 2007 the Hine Fellows Program came to Boston and in the last five years, nine Fellows - young people with incredible skills and passion - have been placed at community-based organizations throughout Greater Boston. They have taken photographs, created films and podcasts, produced books and exhibits, and otherwise used their talents to shine a light on children and families who are typically marginalized in our society. In the words of Sister Margaret Leonard of Project Hope, host to one of the first Hine Fellows placed in Boston:

 "Although we do education and childcare and shelters and policy change, we really felt our core competency was 'transformation,' having a relationship with women in such a way that they change. So when Libby Conn (our Hine Fellow) came here, we asked her to document this transformation process. When she did the podcasts she really helped the women articulate and find their voices and learn and then tell their own stories. I came to see that documentary work could be part of an ongoing growth development program with these women.” 

 As evident through Libby’s work, Hine Fellows use their observational and technical skills to connect with the individuals in the community in which they serve.  In making this connection, Fellows not only help advance the mission of their host organization, but also guide the women and children with whom they work through an important process of self-discovery.