HineSight: an overview

For seven years, from 2006 to 2013, the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program, based at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, sent documentary Fellows to Boston to work with local nonprofit organizations focused on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, adolescents, and children. The goals of the program are twofold: to increase the number of committed young documentarians working in the humanitarian field and to demonstrate the genuine impact that documentary work can have.

Over the course of this sustained work in Boston, a familiar question arose: How might we measure and communicate the multiple dimensions of the impact of these documentary projects? While models exist that establish metrics and tools for quantifying emotional responses to documentaries, we at the Hine Fellows program wondered if we might use documentary work itself to gauge impact in ways that could not be captured through more quantitative approaches. In 2013–2014 we asked filmmaker and photographer Natalie Minik to spend time in Boston to see if she could evoke, through her own research and video production, the cumulative effect of documentary work over time in one major American city. Hine Sight: Seven Years of Lewis Hine Fellowships in Boston is the result of Minik’s efforts.

As part of her own Hine Fellowship, Minik produced the five videos featured on this site. In creating them, she explored the impact of former Hine Fellows’ documentary work on the individuals and families portrayed in their projects, on the neighborhoods these individuals live in, and on the organizations that are attempting to help them improve their lives. And finally she was interested in the former Hine Fellows themselves. What impact did working on these documentaries have on their own lives and careers? Minik believes, as do we at the Lewis Hine Fellows program, that in efforts to measure and assess documentary impact, all of these voices merit our attention.


Founded on the spirit, values, and actions of Lewis Hine, the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program connects the talents of young documentarians with the resources and needs of organizations serving children and their communities around the world.

In a novel, a house or a person has his meaning, his existence entirely through the writer. Here, a house or a person has only the most limited of his meaning through me: his true meaning is much huger. It is that he exists, in actual being, as you do and I do, and as no character of the imagination can possibly exist. His great weight, mystery, and dignity are in this fact. As for me, I can tell you of him only what I saw, only so accurately as in my terms I know how: and this in turn has its chief stature not in any ability of mine, but in the fact that I too exist not as a work of fiction, but as a human being.

James Agee from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men