Jacob Riis

(1620 words)
  • Michael Brooks (West Chester University)

Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives (1890) is a masterpiece of American journalism. It is also the book that originated the tradition of documentary photography. Its boisterously self-confident author would have been pleased at the first distinction and puzzled by the second.

Jacob Riis's career was entirely bound up with the wave of immigrants who came to America between 1870 and 1929. Disappointed in love, often in conflict with his father, and with no immediate prospects of a career, he left Denmark and reached New York City's Castle Garden on Sunday, June 5, 1870. With no friends and no career prospects, he worked as a miner, a brick maker, a ship's carpenter and a door to door salesman. He tried to become a …

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Citation:
Brooks, Michael. "Jacob Riis". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 13 January 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=12486, accessed 28 November 2014.]