hazy, lazy days of poverty

There is a long legacy of indifference toward the plight of ‘others’.  We know this.  It is especially distressing in the context of Western modern history.  We have known ourselves to be capable of better, for centuries.  Biting commentary from the high seas of Moby Dick:


Photo Credit:  “Street Arabs”, c. 1890, Jacob Riis

 Jacob A. Riis 

He was an American photojournalist, Danish born.  Upon immigrating to America, New York, Riis was struck by the magnitude of the poverty.  By the 1890s his research of the Lower East Side estimated staggering statistics on population density, disease, and mortality – numbers far surpassing those of Dickensian London.  The research has lead to the current view that New York had been the home of perhaps the worse slums in Western history.* 

Riis dedicated his life to social reform as an author, journalist, lecturer, muck-raker, and photographer.  He wrote over a dozen books including Children of the Poor (1892), Out of Mulberry Street (1898), an autobiography: The Making of An American (1901), The Battle With the Slum (1902), and Children of the Tenement (1903).

Over…twenty-five years Jacob Riis wrote and lectured on the problems of the poor. This included magic lantern shows and one observer noted that “his viewers moaned, shuddered, fainted and even talked to the photographs he projected, reacting to the slides not as images but as a virtual reality that transported the New York slum world directly into the lecture hall.”

 – http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAriis.htm

*Harold Evans, the author of The American Century: People, Power and Politics (1998)

I selected only a couple of photographs from his body of work.  Carefree images of lazing-about.  Home, respite and slumber:

 ***I am still researching titles and dates – add/remove photos.***

Children sleeping in Mulberry St, 1890, J.Riis


Home of an Italian Ragpicker, 1888, J. Riis


**5 cent flophouse




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