In an eye-opening display of the poverty of generations past in New York City, Jacob Riis’ photography shows the day-to-day life in the slums of the Five Points. Immigrants endured, at best, the bare minimum standard of living conditions in the tenement style slums.
‘How the Other Half Lives’ documents Jacob Riis’ photographic exploration into what life was like during the early 19th century in New York City, which evidently was a far cry from the modern metropolis we know the city to be today. It succinctly “brought to public attention the desperate lives of urban immigrants” in and around Manhattan, says The Daily Mail.
Pictures range from the showcasing of the despair of cold children huddling for warmth, to people working, as well as depicting times when they would have reprieve into leisure through music or activities.
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An immigrant himself, Jacob Riis hailed from Denmark. He arrived in New York City in 1870, first working as a casual laborer, before turning to crime reporting for the New York Tribune.
The New York Times reports that Riis did not begin photography until 1888, more than ten years after he began work as a reporter, and discontinued taking pictures just four years later.
While Riis carefully maintained his written work, he wasn’t as diligent in the care of his photography, which he considered to be only “mere accomplishments” in comparison to his written pieces, says The Daily Mail.
His now famous photos didn’t surface until the 1940s, when photographers tracked down his youngest son and asked to search his attic. Riis’ photography was discovered, and the substantial collection is now in the keeping of The Museum of the City of New York.