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Tracking down the photographed 
 
  
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Within documentary photography we are frequently left with the portrayed but with minimal or no evidence of their lives and biographical information. What happened to the children portrayed in the photographs Lewis Hine took as evidence for the reform of child labour in America? We can examine the 1908 photograph of Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in Cotton Mill, North Carolina where Lewis Hine provided notes for a photograph he took on 30 November 1908[1]:
Sadie Pfeifer, 48 inches high, has worked half a year. One of the many small children at work in Lancaster Cotton Mills.
We have accompanying notes and captions for many of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) but the quality of recordkeeping varied considerably between photographers and information has been lost over time. Researchers such as Joe Manning[2] have undertaken to track down the people photographed and their descendents of those photographed by Lewis Hine[3] and John Vachon[4] to provide oral histories - a postscript of lives portrayed.
 
With famous photographs such as Dorothea Lange's Human Erosion in California (Migrant Mother) [Nipomo, California] (1936), Alfred Eisenstaedt 's V.J. Day (1945) showing a sailor kissing a nurse in Time Square, Robert Doisneau's Le Basier de L'Hotel de Ville (1950) or Steve McCurry's Afghan refugee (taken in Peshawar, Pakistan) have well researched histories as considerable effort has been expended in tracking down the people involved.  
  
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PhVPhotographs with well researched histories 
  
A photographic portrait is normally taken in a fraction of a second and the photographer moves on - outside of social science documentation the story stops with the shutter. After the event there is usually little or no research on what has happened to the people photographed and how their lives progressed and if the photograph affected them. With photography we get fragments of person's life.[5] It is when an image has public resonance that makes it gains sufficient traction for the search for further details to become a news story that it attracts the necessary resources to complete the story. 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ A similar image at the J. Paul Getty Museum (84.XM.967.15], "Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in Cotton Mill, North Carolina" was dated 1910. 
      
  2. Λ Joe Manning - Mornings on Maple Street
    (Accessed: 15 March 2014)
    www.morningsonmaplestreet.com/joemanning.html 
      
  3. Λ Lewis Hine Project
    (Accessed: 15 March 2014)
    www.morningsonmaplestreet.com/lewishine.html 
      
  4. Λ For an example of the work of Joe Manning's oral history of a series of John Vachon's FSA photographs see - The Lansing Family, photographed in October 1940
    (Accessed: 15 March 2014)
    www.eightsteeples.com/lansing1.html 
      
  5. Λ I'm interested in examples to illustrate this topic - alan@luminous-lint.com
     
    The excellent blog - Iconic Photos by Alex Selwyn-Holmes deserves examination.
    (Accessed: 14 March 2014)
    iconicphotos.wordpress.com 
      
 
  
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