Jacob Riis – Photos and Artwork

About Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis was a well-known Danish-American journalist, social reformer, and documentary photographer who immigrated to the United States in 1870. He dedicated himself to documenting the working class people and the very poor, especially in his book How the Other Half Lives published in 1890. His work had an enormous impact on American society, contributing significantly to urban reform.

As one of America’s first photojournalists, Riis used photography as a means of social reform to expose squalid living and working conditions in New York’s slums. He sought to draw attention to issues related to tenement living through his descriptions of his subjects portrayed mostly by photographic images. While some have criticized his descriptions for being condescending and stereotypical towards those he documented, he accomplished raising awareness regarding their plight through his images that showed overcrowding, sanitation problems, and lack of lighting.

Riis’ direct approach using photography as part of investigative journalism proved that imagery could be a powerful tool for bringing about change during a time when text-based reports were deemed more important. In summary, Riis remains an influential figure in both photojournalism and social reform movements thanks to his tireless efforts towards improving living conditions for impoverished communities.

Photographs from Jacob Riis

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