Documenting "The Other Half": The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine
Photography and Social ReformJacob RiisLewis HineSlideshows

The Reporter of Mulberry Bend

The Reporter of Mulberry Bend

Photographs and Lantern-Slide Lectures

How the Other Half Lives

Later Reform Efforts

Analysis of Riis Photographs

Jacob Riis's adaptability and curiosity made him a good reporter. His reporting jobs also gave him an opportunity to become more familiar with New York society.

In 1874 Riis accepted a position at a small weekly newspaper, the South Brooklyn News. During his stint with the newspaper, he wrote articles about New York's corrupt politicians.

In his next job as a police reporter for the New York Tribune, Riis wrote about social and economic conditions in New York City's Lower East Side.

Riis set up an office in Mulberry Bend, a tenement neighborhood across from police headquarters. Each day he traveled through the neighborhood, witnessing firsthand the cramped, dirty quarters and inadequate sanitation.

Mulberry Bend
Mulberry Bend, New York City
The stories Riis wrote emphasized the humanity of the tenement population. While his commentary was often harsh, his ultimate goal was to depict the poor as a group capable of responding favorably to reform efforts. An emerging theme of his writings was that the poor were not immoral by nature, but, rather, were products of the environment in which they lived.

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2000-2003