« OT: From VHS to Virtual (Partly) | Main | Shorpy and Addie »

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hine's "Passionate Journey" makes me think of another "Passionate Journey", by Belgian artist Frans Masreel:


More or less contemporary with Hine, Masreel is among the few gifted woodcutters / engravers such as Lynd Ward or Otto Nückel who produced beautiful, wordless "graphic" novels made of individual plates. Similar themes of labour, exploitation, modernity criss-cross between them.

Lynd Ward's oeuvre, in particular "Vertigo", "Wild Pilgrimage" and "Prelude to a Million Years" are astonishingly expressive series about the wreck that the Depression caused.

He's the first visual storyteller to enter the Library of America, so it's required reading for you all from now on!

I feel for you, as I'm in the same boat, except that as "self unemployed" one must spend down savings as you are your own safety net. Have you joined a self-employment advocacy group?

I'm self employed. I too pay the disincentivization to entrepreneurship.

For 2011 I am able to deduct the total cost of benefits (such as they are; another great reason to not be self employed).

Either I've done something wrong or you're missing a deduction.

Mike, I too am self employed and have been since 1981. I am trying to lobby the government for a huge tax break for "Photography Exploration" but they aren't biting. Seriously thinking about starting "The Church of Photography" where I will be the grand something. I'll pay myself a tiny salary but the church will pay for my ranch retreat, my weekend retreat lake house, my car and driver and my modest 20 or 30 room house in the city. Just FYI, I will need acolytes....

But in the end I'll try what most of the truly wealthy do and just set up a foundation dedicated to studying the Photography of Kirk Tuck.

Plus, he was born in Oshkosh!

Besides the Eastman House, about 5000 of his National Child Labor Committee photographs are housed in my neck of the woods at the Albin O. Kuhn Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus. They are sometimes on display, but always accessible for private viewing upon request.

Dear Al,

What's a "self-employment advocacy group?"

Assuming it's not some crypto-libertarian thing, I'd be interested in learning about these.

Google wasn't very helpful to me. Can you give me some pointers?


pax / Ctein

His photographs of child workers make me weep. I've not yet encountered another body of work that can affect me on such a deep emotional level.

Thank you for sharing this.

Mike, I'm also completely self-employed, so I feel your sticker-shock pain at tax time, too.

But don't think that people with bosses and paychecks don't bear the cost of their benefits and self-employment taxes as well; they simply pay in the form if foregone cash wages. I particularly love the mendacity of the term"self-employment" tax, falsely implying as it does that the greedy boss gets stuck rather than the worker on whose wages it falls.

Employers look at the total cost of employing a worker, not just the wage cost. With a given labor budget per worker, it's a zero-sum game between cash wages and taxes and benefits.

I was in MOMA the first week of March. I went primarily to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit (barf!) but eventually drifted down to the third floor where the other photography resides. All the greats are represented more or less by mediocre examples of their work, imo. Okay, the Weston was nice but the only picture which blew me away was the Lewis Hine, a portrait of a young man.

I really like Hine's work, but he didn't have the formalist eye that most people like now -- his shots, with some exceptions, tend to look like newspaper photos. (An exception is Powerhouse Mechanic, an image that I'm told reverberated through movies in the 20s and 30s, particularly with Charlie Chaplin's.)

As for self-employment, I've concluded that the government doesn't like it. The politicians of both parties would never admit it, but I think they see us "little people" as essentially milk cows that produce the substance (money) that allows them to pay off whoever it is necessary to pay off to keep their jobs. Taxes are much more easily and regularly collected from bureaucracies than from some guy sitting in his back room making money off the net, or running around with a pickup truck and a bunch of rakes, doing yard work. We self-employed are just a pain in the government's ass; they'd actually prefer to have us unemployed, because at least then we'd be in some kind of system, and also more likely to pay them off (with votes) to keep the transfer-of-payments coming.

I occasionally fantasize about setting up "Big Fat Corporation" which would have, for example, a "Johnston Internet Division" and a "Ctein Photo Printing Division" and a "Camp Writing Division" which would never make any taxable profit -- because that would all be distributed as salaries -- but would have such tax-deductible items as medical insurance, company cars, first-class business travel, an accounting department, etc. But, never happen; it'd be like trying to herd cats.

We'll never have another Hine- how I wish I could say we'll never have anyone subjected to the injustice(s) he encountered towards the end of his life. But there are a number of photographers, besides Salgado, that do carry on the tradition- three exceptional practioners right off the top of my head: Matt Black, Gilles Peress and Brenda Ann Kenneally. You can find many more at the Prison Photography Blog.

Dear Mike et.al.,

I know everyone's situation is going to be different, but I *don't* pay a high tax rate when all is said and done. Not compared to my housemate, who works an 8-to-5 job and can't take advantage of all the loopho,ummm I mean deductions that we self-employed have.

It's a bit hard to compare the apples and the oranges; I have to do a bit of WAGging to properly compare our two incomes, but when I do, even with me paying all the social security, my total SSI, IRS and State income taxes are a smaller percentage of my meaningful income than of hers.

While I just about never miss a deduction, I am scrupulously honest about this-- I declare every dollar I own and I never try to take a deduction I can't legally justify. Still, my tax situation is better than hers.

(In case someone is having trouble figuring out how that is even possible, consider that as a writer/photographer with a substantial home office, there are considerable everyday expenses of living that are business deductions for me and not for her.)

I cannot complain.

(It also happens that I am fundamentally a PRO-tax person, so I wouldn't anyway, but even if I were anti-, I'd still have little grounds to complain.)

pax / Ctein

We were very recently looking at our collection of Lewis Hine prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. (We, too, have quite a set.) Paul Butzi's comparison to Salgado is one that came up in our conversation at that time. But there is a wide chasm of difference between Hine and Salgado that becomes very apparent when you see Hine's work in the flesh. Salgado often works to make the ugliness of oppressive conditions beautiful. He frames his scenes in almost lyrical styles. He almost over-works his prints to achieve sometimes outlandish levels of in-your-face "beauty", often masking the base nature of the scene and subjects.

In contrast, Hine's images of ugliness seem very strategically...ugly. The prints are often quite rough. Some of the rawest child labor prints grab you mainly because they seem persuasively candid and matter-of-fact. Everything is not so tidy in the frame. Any accentuation come largely from the scene itself. Of course we're not only comparing photographic styles but also generational differences in photographic technology. Still, spending a couple of hours with Hine's prints convinces me that he would have produced the same type of imagery with a mid-20th 35mm slr...perhaps even grimier. He knew what he was doing, as does Salgado. But they're not really doing the same thing.

Mike, a few weeks ago, you said "As far as the guy hanging from the rock is concerned, though, human beings should stop doing that. I have to look away." (Nokia PureView samples.) The rock climber in that picture at least was roped in. The workers in Hine's pictures had zero safety gear.

This is a very timely post for me, Mike. A few weeks ago I visited the Lewis Hine exhibition currently on show at Fundación Mapfre in Madrid.

Like you, more than the aesthetic values (which are definitely not lacking), I appreciated Hine's work for its meaning and deep consequences. I imagine back then it must have taken a lot of courage from a virtually nobody like Hine to denounce these social issues.

What really struck me about his photographs was the sheer humanity that many of them projected. To me, they looked much more than mere documents of an outrageous social injustice- you could really sense how passionately Hine felt about his subjects, and how badly he wanted to make the world a better place for them through his work.

The exhibition is actually curated by Alison Nordström, whose inaugural conference can be found here (unfortunately dubbed over into Spanish, I'm afraid):


For those interested, there is another interesting conference by Alison Nordström (thankfully not dubbed over) available. This one was part of a conference series on "Eugène Atget and documentary photography" organised on the occasion of the Atget exhibition held last year in Madrid, and can be found here:


And you probably get to pay someone to tell you how big your tax bill is.

If you want to see some good and large jpegs of Lewis Hine (and other greats- and unknowns) you should go to:

www.shorpy.com and do a search on Lewis Hine

A fascinating photo website with thousands of pictures from the last century and even before.

I am self employed too (nothing so glamorous as running a web site, unfortunately) and just did my taxes, that SE tax is a stinker, and it comes along before you get all of those deductions, as you know. I just hope I get some of it back before the US goes broke.

William Eugene Smith

Assuming it's not some crypto-libertarian thing

What is crypto-libertarian?


You need to speak with an accountant. Your benefits can be pre-tax, especially health and retirement (SEP for example).


Another photographer with ethics and empathy that comes to mind is Ken Domon.

Mike, as one who has been self-employed for more than 40 years, I can assure you that if everyone had to pay their taxes out-of-pocket as we do, the income tax would soon vanish and our government, which was designed by the founders to be limited, would soon be forced to cease the redistribution (theft) of our money and resume its constitutional role.

Dear Patrick,

"SE tax is a stinker, and it comes along before you get all of those deductions,..."

You likely know this (at least I hope so), but the self-employment tax comes AFTER all your business production. It comes before your personal deductions, to be sure, but that's an important distinction.

For example, the portion of my mortgage interest that I can deduct as a business expense because I have a home office reduces my self-employment tax. The remainder of my mortgage interest, which is a personal deduction, does not.

In my case, my business deductions are vastly larger than my personal deductions, but everyone's mileage will differ.

(Please excuse any word salad. iPad dictation training…)

pax / Ctein

Paul Butzi's quotes remind me of one from the philosopher Donald Davidson: "A picture is not worth a thousand words [or any other number of words]. Words are the wrong currency to exchange for a picture." (That's actually a paraphrase, but it's close to Davidson's expression.) I have to disagree with Paul on one small point. There's nothing eerie about the similarity. Hine, Frost, and Davidson were all circling around an important insight.

Dear Steve,

Oh, probably the same as cypherpunk


pax / contextual Ctein

Ctein - correct, it comes on the front page of the 1040 form, after you turn your gross into net, but before you get that personal exemption and the standard deduction, that's $9500 to me that I don't pay taxes on, but do pay the self employment tax on, ouch.

Taxes are the bane of our civilization.
However for real heavy taxation, for the so-called good of all, look north to here in Canada.
In Ontario we have a harmonized sales tax, a combination of the federal goods and services tax of 5 percent plus the provincial sales tax. The current highest rate for the two combined taxes is 15 percent. On just about anything and everything except for certain specific food products.
Our federal taxes are far more than USA as well; maybe that's so we have a reasonable government funded health service plan, among other benefits.

Noticed today - from the BBS a short video on Hine.


The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007