Jacob Riis

By:Amanda Casillas and Michelle Stukey

Opening Statement

Jacob Riis was born in Denmark and immigrated to the United States in 1870. After he had many different jobs, he became a police reporter, where he used his natural photography skills. He had an interest in New York City's lifestyle and the harsh conditions of the people living there. Using his camera, he was able to bring change among the people in New York City. In 1890, Riis wrote a book, "How the Other Half Lives." Riis put those living conditions in NYC on display that could not be ignored. After his book became well known, his career as a social reformer evolved.


When Jacob immigrated to America in 1870 (21 years old), he mainly came looking for employment as a carpenter. Instead, he got a job with the New York News Association. After a while, Jacob had his own crew of photographers and begin doing his own work through photojournalism. This led him to fully develop his interest in the harsh living conditions in New York City by creating his book, "How the Other Half Lives."


-What is it?

Jacob Riis was able to use a camera from that time period to capture moments of sadness and despair. These moments were very unknown to the public and Jacob was able to create more awareness through photojournalism.

-3 facts

Photojournalism: The art of practice of communicating news through photographs.

"How The Other Half Lives": A source of photojournalism used by Riis to show the way of life for poor people.

Social Reform: Jacob Riis used his source of photojournalism, "How The Other Half Lives," to begin his career as a social reformer.


-Why is it important?

Jacob Riis was able to provide awareness of the living conditions for poor people in New York City. During that time period, people chose to ignore those groups of people and did not approve of reading or even seeing anything dealing with that subject. Riis was courageous to publish a book about this untouched subject that revealed the truth about their reality.

-Big idea?

The big idea was how Jacob was able to provide facts and information through not only writing, but also through his pictures. Without his access to a camera and his photography skills, he wouldn't have been able to create awareness and to defend the lives of the poor.

-Lasting legacy/impact

Jacob Riis became well known as a social reformer who encouraged the people of America to realize that change was needed. Those changes were to become aware of the poor and what should be done in order to provide help for all of them. He went against the norm of America and touched on a subject that was ignorant to the people and further encouraged the idea of social reform today.


In our opinion, Jacob Riis was a thoughtful and caring person who was courageous enough to do something that was not approved of in America during the late 1800's. He supported the idea of what we know today as "social reform," and provided social awareness on how the other half lived.