“In 1870, the Danish immigrant Jacob Riis (1849-1914) arrived in New York City, aged twenty-one and penniless. This background stimulated his concern for the poor living conditions of inhabitants of the city’s Lower East Side. In time, his concern propelled him to become an important journalist and social reformer. In addition, he is now viewed as one of the founders of documentary photography.
Riis used the camera as a means to help improve the living conditions of the city’s destitute. He was eager to apply the latest developments in the still young medium of photography. After reading about the German invention of flash powder, he realised that this would enable him to capture what he saw at night on his way home: decrepit tenement buildings, cheap gambling halls and opium dens in China Town. Thanks to the new technology, he was also able to photograph scenes in the narrow dark alleys and dimly lit rooms. ”
1017 DS Amsterdam
Also published on Medium.