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Monday, 10 March 2008


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I thought this photo was titled "Police Station Lodger, A Plank for a Bed." I also thought the subject was male. At least, the larger (though much lower contrast) duotone in the 8th printing of Szarkowski's 'Looking at Photographs' seems to suggest a goatee'd individual. Is there some new light being shed on this photo in particular? Just curious. One of my all-time faves.

Interesting... Is this hand his own? Or was it careless assistant? Or maybe it was very careful assistant? My guess it was planned that way. Anyway I cannot imagine this photograph without the hand.

Sergey Botvin

I thought so too, but when I link to TIMES articles I just play it straight--reproduce the title, intro grafs, and captions just as they appear on the Times website. I figure when I'm linking to their content, it's not up to me to editorialize.

I do think they got this one wrong, though. Who knows, maybe the book authors did too, and that's where the Times is taking its lead.

Mike J.

Apparently Riis hired a number of amateur members of the photo club to take many of the photos for him, with the advice of police photographers and many of them were taken in total darkness with flash , so that no one could see what the photo was going to be of until it was taken. There is an interesting interview with the authors of the book on WNYC that you can listen to here

One of the things that I think is interesting with Riis's work , is that by not caring much about the aesthetic , he created the "look" of concerned documentary photography.

I think the hand is that of the photographer who is holding the flash gun (loaded with flash powder) in his other hand. Note the way the shadow is cast.

I had a photo studio in the ground floor of a tenement on Ludlow street , in the heart of the lower east side in the mid 1980s. It was a former gambling den of some sort unused since the 20s or 30's and had walls and floor that looked just like the photo. You could see the ghosts of Riis's work every where in the neighborhood. Of course it's been pretty much transformed since then, now the neighborhood is all luxury condos , and the nightclubs where my son's band plays.

Amazing how so many decades later, Jacob Holdt (yet another Dane also claiming not to be a very good photographer) would continue the documentation of impoverished America.


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