Jacob Riis: The forgotten corners of the Belle Époque

Jacob Riis, Famous for using his talent as a photographer and journalist to help the less fortunate in New York City, who were the main subjects of his works.
Jacob Riis | Image source: Wikipedia

Jacob Riis, Famous for using his talent as a photographer and journalist to help the less fortunate in New York City, who were the main subjects of his works.

Jacob Riis captures a moment when the world, hidden by pretensions, presents itself without defense, photographing a restaurant that allowed you to sleep on the tables for only two cents. At other times, his images seek pose, seek emotional strength through the aestheticization of tragedy. They almost seem to seek a language that is never too raw and harsh, to allow a veiled vision to an audience that would reject the horror of reality.

Jacob August Riis was born on May 3, 1849, in Ribe, Denmark. He was the third of a family of 15 children, including an adopted sister. Despite his harshness, he had a reasonably happy childhood until he was seven, when a younger brother, Theodor, drowned.

Jacob Riis | Image source: Wikipedia

His father wanted him to follow a literary career, but as a teenager, Jacob tried carpentry. At 16, he fell in love with Elisabeth Gjortz, daughter of the carpentry owner where he was an apprentice. Mr. Niels (his father) disapproved of both his son’s relationship and job and sent him to Copenhagen. After making a few carpenter’s nozzles in the capital for a few years, Jacob returned in 1868.

At 21, he emigrated to the United States through a somewhat laborious journey: in a small boat to Glasgow and in the third class of steamship Iowa to New York. He landed with only $40 in his pockets, and he spent half of that on the first day, buying a revolver.

After five days in poverty, he got a job as a carpenter in the Pittsburgh area. When he heard about the Franco-Prussian War, he tried to return (on foot) to New York and embark for Europe. He thought that maybe he could try to do a living as a mercenary.

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Obviously, that idea did not work. Unable to find a stable job, he worked as a pawn, blacksmith, bricklayer, carpenter and salesman, and experienced the worst aspects of American urbanism – crime, disease, filth – in low-income and unhealthy housings, in dirty and dark alleys. 

In 1874, he joined the South Brooklyn News (SBN), a newspaper that blatantly supported the Democratic party until the elections arrived and he was fired. Sometime later, he decided to buy the SBN and act as the editor, subeditor, distributor and ads searcher. He dedicated himself to raising issues of corrupted local policies, which doubled the sales of the newspaper.

In 1877, after selling the South Brooklyn News, getting married in Ribe, his hometown and returning to America, he got a job as a police reporter for the New York Tribune, covering some of the districts dominated by the city’s crime, a job that would lead him to fame and a friendship with the city governor, Theodore Roosevelt.

looking to multiply his lectures, exhibitions and publishing articles, he announced the terrible conditions in which entire families lived. Instead of being dazzled by the richness of America, he focused his lens on the forgotten corners of the Belle Époque: dirty and dark alleys, the thieves and members of gangs, abandoned old people and European immigrants who discovered that New World wasn’t really a land of opportunity.

“I’d look at one of my stonecutters hammering away at the rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow it would split in two, and I knew it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Riis was not a professional photographer, but he learnt as he photographed. He never took into account neither the frames nor the light, or if there were characters that could distort the image. The use of the magnesium flash allowed him to shed light on alleys and scenes that went completely unnoticed by society.

While Alfred Stieglitz dedicated himself to photograph the changes that New York City was experiencing, always looking up as skyscrapers grew, Jacob looked down and discovered a parallel world that coexisted with the excessive growth of capitalism. Basically, the growth of the United States entailed other dire consequences for the population.

That was reflected in the book he published in 1890 ‘How the Other Half Lives’, a collection of photographs that show the social inequalities of the most cosmopolitan city of the moment.

Over the course of three years, Riis spent most of his nights photographing the New York underworld and its tenements. By this time, he was already beginning to attract attention as a social activist. In 1895, he was sought after by none other than Theodore Roosevelt, who, impressed by his book, promoted important social reforms as he began his career as a public security secretary.

He was one of the first in America to use a magnesium powder flash. He himself, with his partner Henry G. Piffard, had modified the formula invented in Germany in 1887, to make it less dangerous.

Riis died on his Massachusetts farm on May 26, 1914.

More Stories

Vimercati Hats by Jeroen Nieuwhuis

Vimercati Hats by Jeroen Nieuwhuis

After World War II, the whole industry changed. The city of Monza has a rich history of producing this wearable art by hand, but unfortunately, they are the only ones left. The modernization that happened in the '50s led to a decrease in production and by the 70s most of the factories shut down.
Met-esthisis; The dream is over by Ari Bafalouka

Met-esthisis; The dream is over by Ari Bafalouka

Met-esthisis (Μεταίσθηση) in greek means aftersensation. An image (usually a negative image) that persists after stimulation has ceased / a mental image of something previously experienced / an afterimage of a taste / of an experience.
Dancers; Lifting Up by Jacqueline Zilberberg

Dancers; Lifting Up by Jacqueline Zilberberg

The photographs of dance improvisations, accompanied by the dancers’ own words, trace the resuscitation of the dancers and their practice when, in the absence of colleagues and audiences, they reinvented their relation to their bodies and to the discipline of dance.

Monochromatic Awards

We invite you to participate in the first edition
of the monochromatic awards. We are looking
for the best monochrome picture for this year, 2022.

The contest is open to any interpretation of monochromatic photography,
black and white, grayscale, sepia or any type of tone.

DEADLINE | THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 2022

PHOTO BY © SVETLIN YOSIFOV
Tithe Muse by Nicoletta Cerasomma

Tithe Muse by Nicoletta Cerasomma

Teresa Bandettini was one of the most talented eclectic woman of the XIX century. She was well known as the intellectual dancer due to her captivating and touching extemporization performances.
My Americana by Joseph Patronite

My Americana by Joseph Patronite

“My Americana” is a long-term photography essay. Its goal: to create a contemporary view of the people, places or happenings which depict The United States of America.
My mum by Viet Van Tran

My mum by Viet Van Tran

To me, my mum, 88 years old, is a mirror of her will to rise up in the life and overcome disease. I want to record some moments forever, not only in my mind and heart, but also in a tangible shape.

Featured Stories

The Nenets by Sara Bianchi

The Nenets by Sara Bianchi

The Nenets are an ethnic minority with fewer than 50.000 people dedicated to reindeer breeding. They live in Yamal peninsula, Siberia. Yamal in the language of the indigenous means "the end of the world"
Dear Japanese: Children of war by Miyuki Okuyama

Dear Japanese: Children of war by Miyuki Okuyama

The Netherlands made contact with the Indonesian archipelago in the 16th century. Over three hundred years of contact with the Dutch gave rise to a population of Indo-Europeans—Dutch citizens sharing both European and Asian ancestry.
Protest in Brooklyn; Blessed to breathe by Bill Livingston

Protest in Brooklyn; Blessed to breathe by Bill Livingston

When George Floyd’s life was unnecessarily and brutally snuffed out by Minneapolis law enforcement on May 25, it was yet another final straw…and that straw was set ablaze around the globe.
Street photography by Joseph Atwere

Street photography by Joseph Atwere

My interest in still photography began in 2007. I bought my first camera which was a Canon 350D whilst on vacation in the US. I had quite a steep learning curve and spent many hours trying to get my head round the basics such as learning about f-stops etc.
The photography of Luis María Barrio

The photography of Luis María Barrio

This project is based on a miscellany of photos that I have been collecting during my travels to India, Morocco, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma and Romania. A selection of individual images that are not interconnected and in which I show characters
Bangladesh; Old streets old stories by Saud A Faisal

Bangladesh; Old streets old stories by Saud A Faisal

Dhaka the capital of Bangladesh and the main city of the country has a rich political and social heritage of over 400 years.This mega city has a old part which is the witness of change of time which changed the daily life of the people but the basic story of people remain the same.
https://www.dodho.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Mono-banner.jpg

We invite you to participate in the first edition of the Monochromatic Awards. We are eager to see photograhs with new focus points and innovative approaches

https://www.dodho.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BAnImage.jpg

ImageRights provides intelligent image search and copyright enforcement services to photo agencies and professional photographers worldwide.

https://www.dodho.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/banner.jpg

The book where words and images meet to never leave each other, The book contains 20 evocative paintings; each of them is a double page. 56 printed pages | 235x165mm

https://www.dodho.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/banner22.jpg

Call For Entries #21 | After 20 editions and more than 100 published photographers, our print edition has proven to be a simply effective promotional channel.

Monologue about Chernobyl by Raúl Moreno

Monologue about Chernobyl by Raúl Moreno

A few kilometers from Chernobyl, there is a radioactive atmosphere that can not be seen but can intuit it. Food contaminated by Cesium 137 and Strontium, these inhabitants consume daily making radioactive isotopes are deposited in their bodies gradually.
Reflecting on Nature by Loreal Prystaj

Reflecting on Nature by Loreal Prystaj

There is no such thing as compromising with nature; we simply abide by how it lives and exist as a part of it. Nature is very relevant to each individual’s well-being, but more so than it is part of us, we are part of it.
Photo manipulation by Sulaiman Almawash

Photo manipulation by Sulaiman Almawash

Photo manipulation is a mix of photography and graphic design. Combining lot of elements and create an unique image. It requires lot of creative skills, is a great source for inspiration and its always great fun and joy when you work on particular concept.
Being a child in a mundari camp by Elena Molina

Being a child in a mundari camp by Elena Molina

This project was selected and published in our print edition 19. Being a child in a Mundari camp is synonymous with working tirelessly from dawn to dusk. From their earliest age, they actively participate in the care of their livestock
Fine art photographs; Big Appetites by Christopher Boffoli

Fine art photographs; Big Appetites by Christopher Boffoli

Big Appetites (2003-present) is a a series of fine art photographs that features tiny, meticulously hand-painted figures photographed against real food environments.
Errance Urbaine by Xavier Rey

Errance Urbaine by Xavier Rey

The work of Xavier Rey is in the early years focused on landscape photography, mainly in long exposure and tends more and more to be part of a research and study on blur.

Call For Entries

We are looking for 6 fantastic photographers
who want to give an incredible impulse to their career.

We are going to put your photographs in front of the eyes of the directors
of the best galleries, festivals and agencies around the world.
Are you coming with us?

DEADLINE | TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2022

PHOTO BY © JULIA FULLERTON-BATTEN

Trending Stories

The Photography of Florin Ion Firimitã

The Photography of Florin Ion Firimitã

When I finished my first novel, about one year ago, besides a sense of relief (I spent over a decade working on it), I wondered if there were any readers left in the world. At a very basic level, my book is a story about a photographer who needs a rebirth.
Epic Abstracts by Alex Axon

Epic Abstracts by Alex Axon

I'm a fine art photographer living in Bucharest (Romania) and taking advantage of my wanderings through the world to freeze moments and capture stories. I enjoy using minimal or abstract themes in my works
Shanghai by Tomofumi Nakano

Shanghai by Tomofumi Nakano

This works shows how do they see China from Japanese people. Envy, jealousy, disdain , nostalgy and more. A Japanese visual artist Tomofumi Nakano visualized Japanese complex emotions to the neighbor country China in this photographic works.
Chatting with Adrien Tache

Chatting with Adrien Tache

When I was much younger, I came across the famous picture of Nick Ut, a Vietnamese war photographer, which left a mark on me.
Its a Kind of Magic KireevArt

Its a Kind of Magic KireevArt

This body of work is, to some extent, an alternative version or a continuation of the portfolio "Palette of Fantasies" presented to this contest as well. Therefore, it is possible to treat both portfolios in a similar way.
Five minutes with Leland Bobbe

Five minutes with Leland Bobbe

Leland Bobbé, a native New Yorker, has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. His work spans both the fine art and commercial worlds and has been shown in galleries and utilized by advertising agencies around the country.
Himalayan Landslides – Nature’s Fury or Man-made Calamity by Sirsendu Gayen

Himalayan Landslides – Nature’s Fury or Man-made Calamity by Sirsendu Gayen

The Himalayas are a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan plateau. This is also, by definition, the name of the vast mountain chain, which comprises the Himalayas, the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and a number of small ranges ranging from the Pamir Knot.
North Atlantic; Profound Azores by Paulo Monteiro

North Atlantic; Profound Azores by Paulo Monteiro

The Azores are an archipelago in the North Atlantic that consists of nine small islands. The smallest, Corvo (Raven), is only 17 km2 and has about 400 inhabitants.
A plethora of stories in motion by Srideep Banerjee

A plethora of stories in motion by Srideep Banerjee

I am passionate about photography and art in general since I was a child. Every time I had the opportunity to go to a new place like a school trip or  with my parents, I took my small camera, and I captured everything.

Other Stories

stay in touch
Join our mailing list and we'll keep you up to date with all the latest stories, opportunities, calls and more.
We use Sendinblue as our marketing platform. By Clicking below to submit this form, you acknowledge that the information you provided will be transferred to Sendinblue for processing in accordance with their terms of use
We’d love to
Thank you for subscribing!
Submission
Dodho Magazine accepts submissions from emerging and professional photographers from around the world.
Their projects can be published among the best photographers and be viewed by the best professionals in the industry and thousands of photography enthusiasts. Dodho magazine reserves the right to accept or reject any submitted project. Due to the large number of presentations received daily and the need to treat them with the greatest respect and the time necessary for a correct interpretation our average response time is around 5/10 business days in the case of being accepted.
- Between 10/30 images of your best images, in case your project contains a greater number of images which are part of the same indivisible body of work will also be accepted. You must send the images in jpg format to 1200px and 72dpi and quality 9. (No borders or watermarks)
- A short biography along with your photograph. (It must be written in the third person)
- Title and full text of the project with a minimum length of 300 words. (Texts with lesser number of words will not be accepted)
This is the information you need to start preparing your project for its presentation
To send it, you must compress the folder in .ZIP format and use our Wetransfer channel specially dedicated to the reception of works. Links or projects in PDF format will not be accepted. All presentations are carefully reviewed based on their content and final quality of the project or portfolio. If your work is selected for publication in the online version, it will be communicated to you via email and subsequently it will be published.
Contact
How can we help? Got an idea or something you'd like share? Please use the adjacent form, or contact contact@dodho.com
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.
Submission
Dodho Magazine accepts submissions from emerging and professional photographers from around the world.
Their projects can be published among the best photographers and be viewed by the best professionals in the industry and thousands of photography enthusiasts. Dodho magazine reserves the right to accept or reject any submitted project. Due to the large number of presentations received daily and the need to treat them with the greatest respect and the time necessary for a correct interpretation our average response time is around 5/10 business days in the case of being accepted. This is the information you need to start preparing your project for its presentation.
To send it, you must compress the folder in .ZIP format and use our Wetransfer channel specially dedicated to the reception of works. Links or projects in PDF format will not be accepted. All presentations are carefully reviewed based on their content and final quality of the project or portfolio. If your work is selected for publication in the online version, it will be communicated to you via email and subsequently it will be published.
Get in Touch
How can we help? Got an idea or something you'd like share? Please use the adjacent form, or contact hello@dodho.com
Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.