These are the photographs of the great Lewis Hine, who resorted to a number of subterfuges to be able to get cameras into the factories.
From the National Archives: [nat]
Lewis Hine, a New York City schoolteacher and photographer, believed that a picture could tell a powerful story. He felt so strongly about the abuse of children as workers that he quit his teaching job and became an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Hine traveled around the country photographing the working conditions of children in all types of industries. He photographed children in coal mines, in meatpacking houses, in textile mills, and in canneries. He took pictures of children working in the streets as shoe shiners, newsboys, and hawkers. In many instances he tricked his way into factories to take the pictures that factory managers did not want the public to see. He was careful to document every photograph with precise facts and figures. To obtain captions for his pictures, he interviewed the children on some pretext and then scribbled his notes with his hand hidden inside his pocket. Because he used subterfuge to take his photographs, he believed that he had to be “double-sure that my photo data was 100% pure – no retouching or fakery of any kind.” Hine defined a good photograph as “a reproduction of impressions made upon the photographer which he desires to repeat to others.” Because he realized his photographs were subjective, he described his work as “photo-interpretation.”
These children were worked to death so that capitalists could enjoy the fruits of their labor as profits.
What capitalists want us to forget, on this labor day, is that their ability to be profitable depends on their ability to pay labor less than it is worth. Historically, one of the ways to find a labor pool that can’t complain is to use children. Today, in much of the US, it’s prison labor.
They say that they cannot run their business if they pay the laborers more. That’s odd, because, if they are profitable at all it is because of the workers. It seems like it ought to be obvious but you don’t have a restaurant without staff, so your profitability depends on your staff – not how thoroughly you can put the screws to them.
At this time, in the US, there are many people who subsist on a WAL-MART or Amazon job, and are also depending on government programs like food stamps in order to make ends meet. You don’t have to be a genius economist to realize that if you’re helping feed people because their job doesn’t, then you’re subsidizing the company so it doesn’t need to pay its laborers a living wage. Capital’s profits are inefficiency baked into the system; perhaps they could pay their workers a living wage if they didn’t pay their executives so much.