What the Boys Learn on Their Street Playground by Jacob Riis (c. 1902)

The photograph titled “What the Boys Learn on Their Street Playground,” created by Jacob Riis, is historically dated around 1902. It captures a street scene where children are depicted engaging with their urban environment.

In the photograph, you can observe a dynamic street scene featuring boys playing with what appears to be a wooden wheel or cart in the middle of an urban street setting. There are storefronts in the background with various goods displayed and hanging cloths that likely serve as awnings or advertisements. The image has a foreground silhouette of two figures, possibly adults, one of whom seems to be carrying a bag, contributing to the photograph’s sense of depth by contrasting the dimmed figures against the illuminated background where the children are playing. This play of light and shadow enhances the documentary quality of the image, which is characteristic of Riis’ work.

Jacob Riis was known for using photography to highlight the living conditions of the poor in the slums of New York, often with a focus on the lives and environments of children. The image showcases urban street life and the improvisational play of children in the context of early 20th century America.

Other Photographs from Jacob Riis

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