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Jacob Riis

Having done a major series of posts on the New York ‘Ashcan School’ (see indexes for individual listings), I thought as an addendum I would show some of the photographic work of Jacob Riis, a social reformer and photographer, who covered some of the same subject matter and is sometimes (erroneously) linked with The Ashcan School. He’s not strictly an artist, and he certainly wasn’t doing ‘art’ photography, but I think his photographs show a fascinating insight to the period.

The Ashcan School was an artistic movement during the early twentieth century that is best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city's poorer neighborhoods. The most famous artists working in this style included Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, John Sloan, and Everett Shinn, some of whom had met studying together under the renowned realist Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and others of whom met in the newspaper offices of Philadelphia where they worked as illustrators.

From Wikipedia:

Jacob August Riis (1849 – 1914) was a Danish American social reformer, "muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of "model tenements” in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography. While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

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