The documentary photographer’s goal is to present images of the state of the world in the hope that they will serve as a wake-up call, to convince and persuade people that change is necessary.
In the late 1800s, new techniques made it possible to use photography to document social issues of the day. Two of the most talented early documentary photographers were Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. Both used photography to show side-effects of the Industrial Revolution—conditions such as child labor, tenement life, and the plight of the immigrant. They hoped the images might bring about change. Partly as a result of Riis’s and Hine’s powerful and groundbreaking work, people came to see the awful conditions in which “the other half” lived and worked. Slowly, reforms took place.