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Jacob August Riis

Photographer, Photojournalist

1849 - 1914 Ribe, Denmark

How the Other Half Lives - The book was an instant success and had an immediate impact. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, intent on improving life in New York, famously say to Riis, “I have read your book, and I have come to help.” Together Riis and Roosevelt walked around New York, with Riis showing the future president the deplorable conditions in which so many people lived. Roosevelt was moved to close the worst of the city’s police lodging houses, which he described as “simply tramp lodging-houses,” and demanded that city officials pass the first significant legislation to improve the state of affairs in immigrant neighborhoods. -


Despite their success during his lifetime, however, his photographs were largely forgotten after his death; ultimately his negatives were found and brought to the attention of the Museum of the City of New York, where a retrospective exhibition of his work was held in 1947. - International Center of Photography

Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformer, "muckraking" journalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography.

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Latest articles
How New York’s Immigrants Lived
Near the turn of the last century, the journalist and social reformer Jacob Riis photographed immigrant garment workers sewing knee-pants in a cramped tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Jacob Riis: Shedding Light On NYC's 'Other Half'
Through photos and writings documenting poverty in New York City in the late 19th century, a Danish immigrant became a famous campaigner against slum housing. Two new books tell the story of Jacob Riis, a social reformer and natural showman.
Jacob Riis: Muckraking in alleys at the turn of the century
He was heralded with pioneering a particularly stark and revealing brand of photojournalism, but Jacob Riis never even considered himself a photographer.
The Making of an American
Children of The Tenements
The Battle with the Slum (New York City)
Out of Mulberry Street; Stories of Tenement Life in New York City (Classic Reprint)
How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York