The origin of Lewis Hine's invention of social documentary photography can be found in his intellectual alliance to pragmatism. Reading Hine's photographs as primary sources of the author's intent, in context with Hine's progressive intellectual milieu and in contrast with his contemporaries, Jacob Riis and Alfred Steiglitz, reveals Hine as a self-conscious and tolerant commentator on the lives of individual immigrants and workers. Although Hine left the objects of his portraits mostly unnamed, through his documentary style, he conferred upon them individual identity in contrast to the nativism, exploitation, and social Darwinism that surrounded immigration issues in the early 1900s. Through his images, Hine transmitted his own perceptions of 1900s New York City, especially Ellis Island. Since Hine was inspired by William James's formulation of “lived experience,” the historian can read Hine through a lens of James's philosophy, solving the pragmatist problem of communicated language by replacing words with images.