This digital composite combines a wallpaper design created by Claude Bragdon accessed through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection, a photograph taken by me of a small machine at work with my phone, a photograph from Lewis Hine taken in 1924, and effects from Photoshop were applied to the different elements of the image multiple times. The original photograph from Hine, as well as the small original design from Bragdon, can be viewed here.
Recently Cardinal Bernard Law died. If the name sounds familiar it’s because he was the man in charge of one of the largest Catholic dioceses in the United States and because in the course of his job he aided and abetted a number of sexually predatory priests by not removing them from their positions of power instead choosing to reassigning them to different churches with congregations full of new, potential victims. There has been a lot of talk about Whisper Networks lately in the fields of entertainment and journalism. However, Law and his priests were active way, way back before the internet and at that point in time when a priest was uprooted and assigned another parish in a different city, county, or state the chance of a previous victim warning a potential victim dropped drastically.
I’m mentioning the Catholic church and abuse because when I originally came across Lewis Hine and his photographic series against child labor I was struck by how young the children were, how small they were in comparison to the machines they operated, how dirty and unhealthy they looked. I didn’t considered the other hazards – until I saw this photograph. The Cheney Silk Mill was actually being lauded by Hines. They were a company trying to do right by their young workers. The facility was clean, only older and bigger boys were allowed to work there, and the workers received some health benefits like regular checkups. But of course, older and bigger boys are still boys and small when directly compared to a grown man as this photograph clearly shows. One priest in the Boston area was able to molest 130 boys during his twenty year priesthood in the last two decades of the 20th century so what was a company truck driver, doctor, or floor supervisor able to do in the 1910’s and the 1920’s? And now, in the Digital Age, should we assume the presence of cameras everywhere offers added protection as opposed to added opportunities for exploitation?