By Sam Roberts, The New York Times
Every generation needs to rediscover Jacob Riis for itself. Born with a preacher’s passion, building on decades of prodigious research by scholars and fellow reformers and empowered by the emerging potency of photography, Riis transformed himself from a penniless Danish immigrant into the conscience of New York and a confidant of Theodore Roosevelt’s.
In companion essays in Rediscovering Jacob Riis: Exposure Journalism and Photography in Turn-of-the-Century New York (The New Press, $35), Bonnie Yochelson, a former curator at the Museum of the City of New York, and Daniel Czitrom, a history professor at Mount Holyoke College, assess Riis’s immediate and enduring impact without overlooking his weaknesses and prejudices.
“How the Other Half Lives,” the title of the work with which Riis remains most closely associated, was an understatement. The poor he chronicled probably accounted for more like three-quarters of New York’s population. An earlier version of the title was more to the point: "How the Other Half Lives and Dies"….
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