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Rediscovering Jacob Riis: The Reformer, His Journalism, and His Photographs Hardcover – February 1, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Art historian Yochelson and history professor Czitrom examine the life and legacy of Jacob Riis. Riis started out as a carpenter with some literary training who emigrated from Denmark to New York City in 1870, where the day-to-day lives of the impoverished fascinated him. His path to renown began in 1889 when his tenement housing reports appeared in Christian Union magazine. Riis then expanded his reportage to How the Other Half Lives, a bestseller, still considered a journalistic classic. Czitrom chronicles Riis's life from his birth in 1849 to 1890; from there Yochelson carries the story to his death in 1914, studding her half of the book with Riis's photographs. Riis did not consider himself a skilled photographer (and with good reason), but his images portray unforgettable people and settings. His reportage and photos—while somewhat flawed by personal and political biases—resonate today. Must so many new immigrants, he asked, begin their lives in the U.S. housed in slums? What should government, churches and private philanthropies do to help? Are some immigrant groups less likely to escape tenement life? These questions that guided Riis's life will remind the reader that history is a useful instructor in the here and now. 95 b&w photos. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Bonnie Yochelson, formerly curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York, teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York. The author of Berenice Abbott: Changing New York (The New Press), she lives in New York City. Daniel Czitrom is a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of Media and the American Mind and co-author of Out of Many. He lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: New Press (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595581995
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595581990
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book really has something for everyone, whether you're new to learning about Riis' reform work or a historian familiar with the subject. It's made up of two well-written, clear essays: the first focuses on Riis in a historical perspective, full of details about the late nineteenth-century city, while the second looks at Riis' images and the ways they were altered, manipulated and re-drawn in popular publications. If you're just an interested reader, there's plenty here to engage you-- the politics of urban reform, the discussions of the images (the reproductions are excellent), the variety offered by having two essays rather than a single author. As a historian, though, I think there's a wider and really fascinating argument being made here. Traditionally, Riis has been placed at the beginning of a reform tradition that then moves through Lewis Hine up to the FSA and onward; historians have accepted that, but struggled with Riis' sentimentality, his 'faking' of his images, the shared authorship of the photos etc. as compared with Hine and later photographers. The authors here argue that the chronology is in fact mistaken, and place Hine at the beginning of the social documentary movement. They argue that Riis is best understood as one of the last of the urban-voyeur movement, and that How the Other Half Lives belong in the 19th-century tradition of the "sunshine-and-shadow" guidebooks. Their evidence is based not just in the pictures and text, but in how Riis used the images in his lectures, and in his own disinterest in the images as part of his legacy; it's a very convincing argument, clearly made, and I think it makes a lot of sense out of Riis and offers a satisfying re-imagining of the trajectory of reform photography.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I'm no expert on the subject, I'd guess this will become one of the definitive bios on Jacob Riis, and also contains many of his important photos as a bonus. The reproduction quality is good enough -- probably better than the original print publications -- but not exceptional.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a photographer that I personally had never heard of before I read the book review. This book gave me a realistic view of how my great-grandmother and her mother, lived when the arrived in New York in 1896. I enjoyed it, it captures the weariness of the times
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
item just as described. packaged nicely and quick delivery. A+
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