This is a study of documentary photography in American social welfare history. The study examines the emergence of photography as a tool of social policy, and in particular, key practitioners who shaped the perception of American social welfare. Within the social welfare literature, this topic is largely unexamined yet invaluable to an understanding of American social welfare. Photography performed a highly instrumental role by providing visual evidence as an innovative way of seeing and analyzing social problems. This image-based approach to social welfare analysis influenced how society viewed itself and the social environment. The goal of this study is to understand this influence by exploring the emergence of documentary photography and the practice of documentary photography as a tool of social welfare policy.