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tv   Social Reformer and Photojournalist Jacob Riis  CSPAN  July 20, 2016 10:29pm-11:36pm EDT

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new york city. she graduated from swarthmore college and proceed a masters and doctorate in art history from new york university. earlier in her career she was working in the print room at the national gallery of art in washington, d.c. and from 1987 to 1991 she was the curator of prints and photographs at the museum of the city of new york and that's where she was able to work with the jacob riis collection of photographs. since leaving the museum, she's been an independent curator and photographic historian working with such institutions as the new york historical society, the columbia county historical society, and the south street seaport museum and since 1988 she's taught in the mfa program in the department of photography, video, and related media at the school of visual arts in new york where she curates the thesis show and serves as a mentor to graduating students. she has curated numerous exhibitions including esther bubbly, american photojournalist
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at the ubs painewebber art gallery in 2001 and an exhibition entitled after fred stieglitz new york at the seaport museum in 2010. and she curated our jacob riis exhibition which opened at the museum of at the city of new york before opening here in april and it will also travel to two locations in denmark. bonnie is also the author of many books including bernese abbot, changing new york, alfred stieglitz new york and a co-author with daniel czitrom of rediscovering jacob riis. she's also written books on the clarence h. white school of photography and esther bubbley among other subjects. and of course bonnie wrote the book we are here for today, jacob a. riis, revealing new
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york's other half. when bonnie first began working on riis more than two decades ago, riis was remembered primarily as a photographer and her subsequent scholarship has provided by a much fuller picture of riis as an immigrant who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, a journalist and author and social reformer who considered photographs nothing more than a tool to spread his message. by seeing this fuller picture of riis and reading his articles, books, lectures and personal papers housed here at the library we can better understand the issues that new york's other half actually faced -- poverty, poor housing conditions, child labor, lack of access to education, homelessness and disease. most if not all of these issues are still with us today in one form or another which makes riis's work and bonnie's more
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relevant an ever. as an editor i have worked with a lot of different authors and since i have the stage i want to take this opportunity to say what an absolute pleasure it was to work with bonnie and how much i admire her as a scholar and an independent -- and a museum professional. it takes a certain find of person to be successful as an independent scholar, as someone who can manage her own time, meet deadline, forge connections and partnerships and find money to get big projects done. while i was spending much of my time on this one project, she was simultaneously conducting original research, writing unique exhibition lists for different venues, keaching and
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coordinating the senior thesis show at the cool of visual arts all while writing this book and compiling the first catalog of riis's photograph. in the years it has taken to get these exhibitions mounted and this book published bonnie has worn ever single type of hat in the business and none of this could have been possible without her talent, energy and passion for her subject. with that, i will let bonnie take the stage. [ applause ] >> amy, thank you so much, i'm moved. thank you very much. welcome, everyone. okay so i'm going to read pretty much -- let's see what we have to say here. the jacob -- i'm going repeat what amy did to just make sure that we understand how these different parts of this project fit together. the jacob riis exhibition now on view in the jefferson building at the library of congress is the result of a collaboration of the past several years between the library and the museum and the city of new york. the museum's owns riis's photograph of new york city slums in the late 19th century. these photographs are the earliest evidence of the disastrous effects of the forces
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of modernity on new york whose slums were the worst on earth at that time. because the city's economy was expanding so rapidly it became a magnet for rural americans and european immigrants seeking jobs and a better life. although jobs were plentiful, the city didn't have the housing transportation or sanitation system to meet their needs. new arrivals lived in hastily built tenements with little or no plumbing and wages and rents were exploitative. people including children did piece work in their homes, worked in factories, education was not mandatory and there were no public parks or playgrounds where children could play safely. riis's photographs taken between 1887 and 1895 depicts these ills. the collection is small, riis took about 250 pictures of new york but it's unique, world famous and in constant demand. as a signature image i'm showing
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you "bandits' roost" which is riis's most famous picture. it shows some italian toughs in an alley in a neighborhood called mulberry bend which he wrote much about and which is very close to his office. let's see if i can get this going properly. and just to show you the sort of sense in which riis' images have been thoroughly disseminated, this is -- shows recreation of "bandit's roost" by martin scorsese in his 2002 film "gangs of new york." riis is equally celebrated for his first book "how the other half lives" which presented a passionate argument for addressing this crisis. riis was a journalist by trade and after years of covering the crime beat in new york he began to write about urban poverty and the latest ideas to remedy it. his book has remained in print since it first appeared in 1890 and has become a landmark text in american history.
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this shows you the first edition of the book. it's very small. i don't know, i should know this by now, like 5 x 9 and this shows you a recent edition you can see how it's even called out on the cover a jacob riis classic. interestingly of the t photograph on the front is not by riis. [ laughter ] but it's a good picture of tenements. the library of congress owns the bulk of riis's archive which includes notes, manuscripts, off prints of articles, annotated scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, family letters, expense books and much more and to give you some idea, this is the first page of a small scrapbook in which riis collected the press comments on his very first lecture. it read here "press comments on the lecture "the other half, how it lives and dies in new york illustrated with 100 photographic views by jacob a. riis delivered for the first
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time january 25, 1888 before the american photographers' association at 122 west 36th street new york." so this gives you a sense of how aware he was of keeping track of his careers in posterity. the current exhibition, which opened last fall in new york as amy said and will travel this fall to denmark which is riis's native country brings together the museum's photographs and library's archive for the first time. in each venue the show takes a different form but each offers a rich portrait of riis and his legacy. i first encountered riis' photographs in 1987 when i took a job as curator of princeton photographs at the museum of the city of new york. riis was a professional journalist, not a professional photographer, not even a serious amateur photographer yet he is considered one of the great pioneers in the history of the
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medium. this is the putz that will has kept me working on riis on an off for i have to say nearly 30 years, just a shocking thought. but now finally i am done. [ laughter ] today i would like to share with you my journey with riis and summarize my understanding of his accomplishments as a reformer and photographer. before becoming curator at the museum i worked in the photography departments of three art museums. these museums collected individual prints by photographs who used the camera to create works of art. the riis collection was unlike any i'd ever seen. it consisted of 415 glass negatives, many of them copy negatives of prints by other photographers. 26 glass lantern slides made by commercial photography studios
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and 191 vintage prints and the remainder by unknown professional photographers. the museum was the sole repository of riis' photograph which is consisted of this assortment of odd stuff. the record search at the museum indicated the collection came there in 1945, 31 years of riis died and was given by his son roger william riis. the story behind this gift only created more questions. in the 1940s, photographer alexander alland, sr., had noticed that the title page of "how the other half lives" announced that the book's illustrations were based on photographs by the author. searching for these photographs, alland contacted riis' son and convinced him to ask the current owners of the house in queens where he grew up if he might look in the attic for his father's photographs. there he found a box which contained the 450 negatives, 326 slides and 191 vintage prints that now comprise the riis
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collection. the very fact that riis did not save his photographs is the most important clue to what he thought of them. in contrast to the photographs, riis organized, annotated all of his papers for posterity. his family gave most of them to the library of congress and a smaller portion to the new york public library. when riis sold the family home and moved to massachusetts in 1912 he left the photographs in the attic. the contents of the box in the attic was give on the the museum of the city of new york because alland teamed up with the curator at the time, grace mayer and a together they prepared an exhibition "the battle with the slum" which, in 1947, introduced riis' photographs to the world. the show featured 50 beautiful prints made by alland from riis' negatives with quotations called by mayer from riis' writings. this comparison of an alland
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print on the left and the contact print from riis' negatives -- the contact print from this negative in the riis collection gives you an idea of alland's artistry. alland doubled the size of riis' print which is you cannot see here. but what you can see is get some sense of his dark room wizardry in which alland created rich blacks and detailed highlights he also cropped out the foreground of the image, eliminated the areas out of focus which brought our attention to the rag pickers in the middle distance -- let's see if i can show you this. recropped out this out of focus foreground so in his foreground you get a closeup view of these rag pickers that are sitting here among rags against this
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wall. alland. a huge success, the exhibition was widely covered in the photographic press andris entered the history of photographer as a pioneer of the medium in 1973 alland published a well researched biography which featured his prints and was titled "jacob a. riis, photographer and citizen." without alland, riis' photographs would have been lost but because of him riis became known as a modern documentary photographer, which he was not. in the 1950s as interest in riis' photographs grew the museum had to provide access to the collection, most of which was made of glass and could not be shown in original form, to facilitate researchers and provide prints for reproduction museum staff photographers made study prints from the negatives. like alland's prints, these were 8 x 10 enlargements but unlike alland's prints they were poor quality. this was the situation when i
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arrived at the museum in 1987. because of alland's rescue and promotion of riis' photographs, riis was considered a major modern photographer but because of the museum's stewardship, the public saw only poor study prints made from negatives and knew nothing of the additional images available, only as lantern slides or vintage prints. okay, sorry, i'll go back to that one. to compound the problem, many photographs made by riis were attributed to him because many of the negatives were copies of prints by other photographers he acquired so here's -- this is where i need this pointer. if you can see, this is a -- riis has pinned up jessie tarbox beals' photograph with thumb
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tacks and rephotographed it. so you can see the thumb tacks here and the reason he did this is because he wanted to have a lantern slide made and i'm showing you the lantern slide on the right for his lectures. this is a scene of a family making artificial flowers in their tenement home. this picture -- because this is a negative, a copy negative, this was cropped so that you don't see the thumb tacks and printed the same size as all the others so for many, many years this image was attributed to riis even though it's actually got jessie tarbox beals' signature on the negative right down here. so those were the kind of that
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collection presented so generally curators have enormous interpretive discretion with collections just by virtue of selecting them and figuring out how to present them. this case, this collection presented me as the curator with a sort of alarming sense of responsibility because by having to essentially put aside these study prints and determine how to create new prints and how to make the glass lantern slides available as well as the information in the negatives and the vintage prints i was kind of creating -- had the responsibility to create riis' work. which was daunting to say the least in 1994 -- and by this time i was not on staff but i was supervising this project -- the museum received a grand from the national endowment for the humanities to create a database
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of the collection to make color transparencies of the lantern slides and make contact prints, 4 x 5 inches, the same size as the negatives on printing out paper, the type used in riis' day. the goal was to create prints that looked like the vintage print wes did have in the collection and that's where this was in the wrong order but i'll show you. this is an example of one of the handful of vintage prints in the collection in decent condition. this is a contact print, 4 x 5 inches mounted on a piece of cardboard. so these vintage material prints as they are called are what the public now sees and there's a large sampling of these on view in the current exhibition.
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that year, 1994, i wrote an article that explained the neh preservation project titled "what are the photographs of jacob riis" and it began with a hand colored lantern slide of "bandit's roost." you can see that here. this image was meant to surprise and provoke the viewer. you think you know bandit's roost, look at this. and that's what the slide looks like. so this is the kind of material that was buried because the lantern slides were not available to researchers but this slide is as company prime minister of how riis' -- doesn't look anything like a modern documentary photographer. with the new facsimiles as a foundation it was clear that the foundation was not a body of work but the raw material for riis' articles and lectures. for him, the final product was words and pictures together. what was needed was a study of the photographs to delineate which pictures he took, when and for what purpose and which
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pictures he acquired, when and for what purpose. the detective worked consisted of creating a research folder for each image and collecting in the folder each version of the image, the negative, any lantern slides and prints along with photo copies of each published version of each image. the illustrations of riis' articles, dozens of which appeared in new york daily newspapers and nationally circulating magazines could be gleaned from the off prints and scrapbooks in the riis papers and library of congress. in 1976, the riis papers had been microfilmed and i was able to purchase a copy of the eight rolls of film which became my bible. any of you who have had worked with microfilm know how much fun that is. this forms the basis of the current catalog. in 1997, however, i did not aim to produce a catalog, i aimed to
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produce a narrative about riis' photographic practice and i hope to place the five years in which he used the camera within the context of his 40 years as a journalist. as amy explained, i'm an art historian not historian and for the latter task i was not equipped. i don't understand riis' world which was not that of an artist but of journalism, politics, law enforcement and housing at the turn of the century. doing some preliminary research i learned riis was an important figure in american history regardless of photographs but for his writings and activism. to get my bearings in the history of the period and bridge the dialogue in two disparate fields i needed the help of an historian so i reached out to dan sit rum from mount holyoke college. we were awarded a grant to prepare a book on riis which was published in 2007 and came out in paperback in 2014 and that's this book. while we were working on the book, the museum embarked on a massive digitization of its photo collections and the riis collection among others is fully available online. as incredible as this accomplishment is it highlighted
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a problem. the information that accompanied the digital images online was the preliminary research done in 1994 as part of that original neh access and preservation grant. the museum was sending serious researchers to me personally to neh access and preservation grant. the museum was sending serious researchers to me personally to help them better understand what they encountered online which sent me time and again to my research files. i realized that there was a real need for a complete catalog of the collection that would place riis' photographs in the context of his writings and sort out the naughty problems of attribution, that is to explain which picture he took, which he asked others to take for him and when and why. in 2012 i offered the contents of my files to the museum and asked if it was interested in supporting the publication of the catalog. the museum decided to sponsor the catalog, a primary goal and the primary goal is to contrast riis' photographs with the published illustration, which
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predated the accurate half tones that became standard by the turn of the century, by 1900. this required extensive photography of riis' articles and books. that is it required reliance on the jacob riis papers in the library. a dialogue between the two institutions resulted in a partnership to jointly publish the catalog. for me, this was a god send. after years of peering at smudgy images on microfilm i was able to examine the original scrapbooks and letters. it was as if i finally met the man i studied for so long. as the museum and library worked out an agreement, i began meeting with amy who edited the catalog, barbara, the curator in manuscripts and archives decision and cheryl, director of
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exhibitions. they not only brought the catalog and exhibition into being but enhanced my understanding of riis and beverly brannon also who is a curator in the princeton photographs department helped me with the -- was invaluable in helping me with the riis photographs that are part of the collection here having told my riis story let me reiterate the story of riis as i have come to understand it. jacob august riis was born in 1849 in denmark, a cathedral town more connected to the medieval past than the industrial present. riis was a restless, even rebellious child who at age 20 left home for america, a place about which he knew nothing. in his autobiography he mentioned he loved james fenimore cooper's stories of american indians, and when he arrived in new york, he purchased a gun, which he brandished and narrowly escaped getting arrested. his desire to reinvent himself in a new land was a common 19th century story. america was built by waves of european immigrants, irish, germans, chinese, scandinavians, italians and jews. between 1870 and 1900 a tenth of all danes left home for america.
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these, by the way, are riis' slides in his own autobiographic lecture. these are a copy of these slides, which are in this collection here. most danish immigrants traveled to the midwest as homesteaders and in many instances they founded their own communities. by contrast, riis spend five years wandering from place to place, job to job, failing to establish a foothold time and again. the immigrants' sense of alienation, of being caught between old and new and feeling misunderstood was perhaps extreme in riis' case. explaining why he slept on this gravestone in new brunswick, new jersey, riis wrote "the night dews and snakes and dogs that kept sniffing and growling made me tired of sleeping in the fields. the dead were much better company. they minded their own business and left a fellow alone."
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[ laughter ] who motivated riis to continue was his determination to win the hand of elizabeth gertz, a girl from his hometown who was socially beyond his reach there. against all odds, she was unmarried when he asked for her hand in 1875, that's after his five years of failure and she accepted despite the fact she barely knew him. he brought elizabeth back to america, they had five children and riis settled the family in a house with a large garden in richmond hill queens. riis succeeded in fulfilling every immigrant's dream of middle-class respectability and this is perhaps that not descriptive but one of the most charming pictures in -- of his family snapshots he took. his house you can see in the background on this large property that he had. that's his daughter katie with her pet goat and you can see
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riis' shadow in the front where he's holding the camera. riis finally found his way in america as a newspaper man in 1876 he landed a job as a police reporter for the new york tribune and later for the evening sun. the daily police beat provided his base salary for 23 years until 1899. this was the era of yellow journalism in which new york's mainly daily papers competed for screaming headlines and sensational stories. riis explained "the police reporter on a newspaper is the one who gathers and handles all the news that means trouble to someone. the murders, fires, suicides, robberies and all that sort before it gets into court." police reporters shared an office at 301 mulberry street in the middle of a six ward slum. for eight years, riis worked the night shift and became boss reporter through sheer hard work. he also honed his storytelling skills, although his articles often read like tales by hans christian anderson, a fellow dane. but he insisted they were true
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fact. "i cannot fict," he claimed. next to a clipping in one of his books riis wrote "this was the last christmas story i wrote for my paper, "the evening sun." they laughed it to scorn in the office and made no end of fun in it. yet all of the stories i have written, i like it best. it moved me more deeply than any of the rest."
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so in this picture also in the library's collection, that's riis back there essentially waiting for news from police headquarters across the street and this picture is fascinating because -- it's on view right now in the exhibit because of this wall of photo reproductions from magazines that covers their wall. in 1884 riis moved from the night to day shift and as he said "my eggs hatched." he began by covering the meetings of the 1884 tenement house commission which convened at police headquarters. in this way, riis learned of the community of philanthropists, engineers and architects who aimed to change the lives of tenement dwellers. he became an advocate of housing reform which expanded to include education, public parks and playgrounds, public health and immigration policy. in 1887, riis read about the german invention of flash powder in which a powerful burst of light could illuminate scenes photographed in the dark. he had the idea that he could use photographs to show what his words could only tell. although he had no intention of photographing himself and at first he didn't, that was a revolutionary idea. about this picture "five cents a spot" riis wrote "i recall a midnight expedition to the mulberry bend with the sanitary police that turned up a couple of characteristic cases of overcrowding. in one instance two rooms that should at most have held four or
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five sleepers were found to contain 15. a week-old baby among them. most of them were lodgers and slept there for five cents a spot. there was no pretense of beds. when the report was submitted to the health board the next day it did not make much of an impression. these things rarely do put in mere words until my negatives, still dripping from the dark room, came to reinforce them. from them there was no appeal." riis first showed his photographs in january, 1888 at the monthly meeting of the lantern slide committee of the society of amateur photographers of new york. the meeting was arranged by two society members interested in the new flashlight photography and helped riis take his first photographs. titling his talk "how the other half lives and dies in new york" riis showed a hundred slides, folk for two hours and invited his friends from the press. the extensive press coverage led to his delivering his lecture to church groups and the following year he was asked by two editors of scribner's magazine to write an article for this prestigious illustrated journal that circulated nationally. in 1890 scribner's published a book length version of how the other half lives which became a
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national best seller. this is what riis is known for and is considering the beginning of modern photojournalism however the book is in many ways unmodern or at least modern in ways we no longer relate to. the revolutionary flashlight photographs such as "five cents a spot" remain disturbing even today. however, they have been criticized for portraying the city's homeless as hapless victims photographed without their permission. indeed, riis gave them a good scare. he burst into the room with what he called a raiding party, two photographs, and a sanitary policeman and himself and set off an explosion. on several occasions the combustible flash powder caused a fire. during riis' lifetime the only times his photographs were seen as photographs were in his lectures like this projected on a wall. when they were projected on a screen or wall for a live audience, in his article and books on the other hand they were most often copied as wood engravings. this explains why the photographs were almost never mentioned in the dozens of reviews of "five cents a spot."
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and this shows "five cents a spot" in the wood engravings as it appeared in the book. for a century after it was written, "how the other half lives" was praised as a call to conscientious. but in the 1990s, many critics began to fault riis for relying on racial stereotypes. and this is a picture of an opium den in chinatown. indeed, the book is organized as a slum tour in which riis leads his audience through neighborhoods of italians, jews, chinese, et cetera. in his day, the slum tour was an established literary tradition which grew out of actual guided tours of new york's neighborhoods, rich and poor. matthew hale smith's "sunshine and shadow of new york" written in 1869, a generation before, is a classic of the genre and you can see here this shows the sunshine is the picture of a huge mansion on fifth avenue and
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the shadow shows a slum. this looks like five points. it would have been five points, which was the most famous new york slum of the time. riis' book married the voyeuristic slum tour with a christian sermon. "how the other half lives" starts and ends with passages from the parable, a poem by james russell lowell in which christ chastises men of wealth for ignoring their less fortunate brethren. the book ends with lowell's question, "think ye that building that will endure which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?" it was riis' genius to walk the tightrope between popular entertainment and moral uplift but for a 21st century reader the book is a rel lick ic of vin
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sensibility. most discussions of riis don't go beyond "how the other half lives" but the book which was published in 1890 when riis was 41 years old marks the beginning of his reform work. his later career, which is less known, sheds light on other features of modernity. after the success of his first book, riis immediately got to work on a sequel "the children of the poor" which was first published in scribner's magazine and then as a full-length book in 1892. and this shows the opening page. the picture on the left is unrelated. it's for another article, but this shows you the first page of "the children of the poor" in scribner's and features very worked over half tone. again, this is a transitional moment in reproductive technology of little katie who i'm going introduce you to in a moment. perhaps because his subjects were children or because he grew more comfortable with the camera, riis changed his approach to photographing. typical of the photographs in "children of the poor" little katie whose picture in a heavily reworked half tone opens the scribner's article. katie was a 9-year-old whom riis
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met on a visit to the west a 2nd street industrial school founded by the children's aid society to provide classes for children who did not attend public school. unlike the raiding party of the earlier flashlight photographs, riis introduced himself to katie and interviewed her. he learned when her mother died, her father took a new wife and she and her older siblings moved out. katie kept house for them while they worked in factories. about katie, riis remarked "this picture shows what a sober, sturdy little patient she was. help is got up and stood up for her picture without a smile." what kief -- kind of work do you do, i asked. i scrubs, she replied promptly. and her look guaranteed that what she scrubbed came out clean. this new approach in which the photographer shows respect for a subject and give hearse a voice
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-- gives her a voice is more in line with the current values and representation practices, the book, which combined these word and image portraits with board of health statistics and a survey of charity programs was a commercial failure. between 1891 and 1893 riis used the camera as an extension of his writing. while preparing "the children of the poor" he took a series of photographs for three newspaper exposés dealing with threats to public health. he photographed 11 riverside dumps to show the law banning rag pickers from living in the dumps went unenforced. he went upstate to the croton reservoir, the source of new york's water supply to document industrial and agricultural pollution and he photographed the abysmal conditions of nine police station lodging houses, the only municipal shelters available to the homeless. this was investigative journalism in the modern sense but riis was too far ahead of his time and this is one of the photographs of the lodging
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houses that he took in 1892. this is the "new york tribune" from january 1892, an article about these lodging houses. the reproductive technology of the time kept his photographs from being seen at full strength nape -- newspapers made single line wood engravings after the photograph, what did not look like photographs at all, so i've just -- that's the way the picture was seen.
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because of an outbreak of typhus, riis gave a lecture in 1893. other than this one lecture the public never saw these photographs, perhaps for this reason riis gave up newspaper photography in 1893 and used the camera only occasionally thereafter. riis' life took a new turn in 1895 when a good government mayor defeated the tammany hall political machine and strong appointed theodore roosevelt as his police commissioner. having read "how the other half lives" roosevelt walked across the street from police headquarters to riis' mulberry street office to seek his advice. the two men became friends and for a short but significant period riis had access to political power. thanks to riis' advocacy, mostly behind the scenes, the worst of the old tenements the infamous gotham court and the mott street barracks -- and this is a picture taken on the roof of the mott street barracks where families are escaping the heat of the interior for the roof, these big horrible barracks, gotham court and mott street, were demolished. the police lodging houses were closed and the notorious mulberry bend was condemned to construct a small park. this is riis' photograph of mulberry bend. it actually shows the bend in the street, which is still a
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street of tenements. you can still see it. and this is the park that replaced it and this is a photograph from 1901, not by riis. what i mean by saying it's still there is that the park is -- this is torn down. this row is still there. riis also convinced the city to condemn buildings on the lower east side to build two more small parks, hamilton fish park and seward park, which continues to serve local residents today. by the end of the strong administration which was one term of two years before tammany was elected back in, riis began to take a retrospective view of his decade of reform. in 1900 he published a book called "the ten year's war" that's 1809 when his first book was published in 1900 and in
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1902 a follow up which was essentially the same book with militia illustrations called "the battle of the slum." also by 1900 the photographic half tone in which the tonal value of photographs could be economically reproduced with text on the same page was nearly universal in magazines and books as a result there was an increased demand for photographs of all sorts, including photographs riis needed for his new books. professionals filled the demand and riis rather than taking photographs collected them. half of his collections consisted of photographs of new schools, model tenements, public park, et cetera, by professional photographers. in this typical example, riis wrote an article for garden magazine about the jacob riis settlement house, a social service organization on henry street on the lower east side which he helped found in the 1880s and which was named for him in 1901. it moved to long island city in 1951 and still provides essential services for the community there. the magazine sent a professional photographer to take these
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pictures for the article and riis had lantern slides made from them for his lecture. so these are lantern slides in the collection made from the photographs of this article. when riis quit his newspaper job in 1899, he began to spend several months a year traveling all over the country delivering illustrated lectures to fill in for lost income. lecture bureaus arrange scheduling and building for this popular form of educational entertainment. for each of his book, riis developed a slide lecture and traveled the country. very like today's book tours or a ted talk. so this is actually a lantern slide, but it was a photograph of a poster for his lecture "the battle of the slum," illustrated with scores of pictures of new
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york city life is what the title says. oh, boy, that is terrible. it's actually -- it's from a microfilm, but i'll just tell you about it. riis -- i don't have the original because it's -- well, it's in the collection. it wasn't microfilmed at all. this is a microfilm from chicago library. because it was so big, it was just in shreds and sadly not copied here. riis used -- riis' use of mass media including the lecture circuit made riis the nation's face and voice of urban reform. so here's the great story about this image. the "chicago tribune," for example, ran a series of seven full-page articles "the story of the slum" which in seven weeks in a row the entire first page of their editorial section.
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and so this is the first -- this is the first one and it's called "the story of the slum part one," and it shows some of riis' pictures and his portrait all in wood engravings after the photographs. so for this, riis was paid $1,000, which was about $29,000 today. so it gives you some sense of his national reputation. let's get rid of that terrible picture. in 1901, riis published his autobiography "the making of an american, a confessional text" built around two characters, his wife elizabeth and his friend teddy roosevelt. the book was published on riis' 25th wedding anniversary and just months after roosevelt became president. a stroke of fate due to the assassination of president william mckinley. the story of a poor young foreigner who became a happily married father of five and a visitor to the white house proved irresistible to the public. riis published a dozen books but
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only two, how the other half lives, the slum tour and christian sermon combined and the making of an american, the sort of confessional story of rise from poverty to the white house, were best sellers. and this is a silver wedding anniversary photograph of riis and his wife actually taken by a well-known portrait photographer. riis' autobiography -- let me see, i'm sorry. and here is a cover of the first edition of "the making of an american." riis' autobiography has been compared to horatio alger's contemporaneous rags-to-riches stories and to the american dream, a term not coined though until the great depression. the book also bears comparison to our own confessional culture. indeed, riis was mocked in the press for telling all he knows
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and feels, which makes you feel sorry for him. and his children were teased. he explained that their father was a bum once. people knew the story. riis no longer enjoyed his fame but he used his candor to further his cause not unlike today's celebrities who reveal their history of sexual abuse or addiction to encourage public understanding of challenging issues. this amusing caricature of riis pounding on a lectern appeared with a review of his lecture in the san jose, california, mercury in 1911. the reporter noted "simple as the story was told, it held the listeners rapt." "if" said riis in closing "the story of one plain immigrant lad helps you to look with kind eyes on one little unfortunate lad, i shall think my words well spoken." so that's my view of my summary of his career and how the photographs enter in.
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so this is the current book, the catalog. to conclude, let me just say a few words about the catalog. in the 1990s when i was work,ing with dan, i felt a complete catalog of the riis collection would send the wrong message. a complete catalog or, as art historians, a catalog raisonne, identifies and describes the complete works of an artist. i was concerned a book of this sort would reinforce the incorrect notion current at the time that riis was a photographic artist. indeed, i just finished a complete catalog of another major collection belonging to the museum of the city of new york, bernese abbot's changing new york. unlike riis, abbot was a professional photographer and an avant-garde artist who created one of the great art works of -- bodies of work of the 20th century, photographing new york for ten years from 1929 to 1939 . she defined changing new york by making 305 signed exhibition
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prints, which she presented to the museum who was the project's sponsor. this artistic intent was exactly what riis lacked. scholars needed to know the who, when, why story behind each photograph. the book provides a basis for further research in a variety of fields especially history and media studies. take "bandit's ruse" for example. this photograph was not taken by him. it was taken for him by the two amateurs who arranged his first talk at the society of amateurs in new york. and it was made with a
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stereoscopic camera, which had two lenses mounted side by side to produce two images on a glass negative. at some point, this negative was divided in half and that's why you see the two images separated here. they deliver slightly because the lens on the left shows you more information on the left. there's a mother and two little children here on the left and on the right you have more information featuring this tough italian dude with a bowler hat. riis' four lantern slides were made from the right side featuring the young tough which better illustrated his point about the dangerousness of the back alleys of mulberry bend. this kind of close vigil reading is essential for scholars seeking to understand riis as a photograph. the catalog also serves the interest of the general reader. riis was wrong that his photographs were of no value when seen apart from his arguments, but they are of much greater value when paired with them. sorry, that's the stereoscopic
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camera, so you understand what i mean about the two lenses. "five cents a spot" is more moving when we learn from riis that 15 people, including a week old baby, were sleeping in that illegal lodging house. and when we learn that little katie was 9 years old, that her mother had died and her father had abandoned his children and that she kept house for her siblings, the photograph becomes much more meaningful. by studying each of riis' photographs and pairing it with his words, the catalog brings us closer to the empathetic experience that riis sought to inspire in his audiences more than a century ago. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> there's time for questions. >> yeah, a few questions if anybody has any. can we turn lights on because i can't see anyone. yes? >> what edition of "how the other half lives" has the best photographs?
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>> that is a very good and complicated question. it depends what you mean by the best. when you go to amazon and look at "how the other half lives," there are so many editions. the museum has only been giving out these vintage material prints of late, but honestly i think the best -- well, before you said which has the best photographs, if you had just said which was the best edition, i would say the one that copies the original book that shows the wood engravings and the lantern slides because it puts the book in context. there was in the '70s an edition of the book photographed -- a cheap but large reproductions by dover press.
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you know, very inexpensive, very accessible edition that has 100 pictures in it. they're chosen arbitrarily by an editor, but it shows you a lot of pictures. there have been -- i would say there have been other editions that have tried to use the modern prints with the book but they kind of destroy the book as an entity by interjecting the modern photographs with the story. so i sort of don't like those books and i haven't really -- i have never really thought about how to answer your question. it's the facsimiles of the original that strike me as the best way to look at the books and all the pictures are available on the internet on the museum's web site. if there's any image that you're interested in, you can see a beautiful high-res scan of it on the museum's website of any individual picture. >> you said that in the beginning he was just using photography.
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but afterwards he kind of started to -- i suppose the indication is that he maybe wanted to take photography a bit more seriously. was he ever -- did he ever talk about photographers at that time that influenced him or did he ever show any interest in that? or was it just that he made a different step and that was part of the process? >> he didn't think about authorship at all. i mean, he was not interested in making pictures. his pictures were represented however a publisher wanted to show them. so he would give them a print, one of those prints like that print i showed you mounted on board and they would have an artist interpret it however that magazine wanted it. so he was never interested in the follow up in that regard. when he had those lantern slides
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made and he wanted them colored he wanted to have more impact. he used the camera, then took his pictures to a commercial studio. they made prints he would give to his publishers. they made his lantern slide. i want a lantern slide of this or that. make this hand colored or that. he didn't have a modern sensibility about photography at all and he only used the camera for five years. this is a guy who wrote dozens and dozens of articles. 13 books. was really skillful writer. and you know the cameras were -- the images were critical because of the lectures. i mean, they were absolutely critical. they're really not critical in his books, and they're almost not commented on by reviewers, but the lectures were -- he was really aiming at those lectures. as soon as he could get the photographs he needed -- and by
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that i mean i have no idea who the photographers are. there were two by jessie tarbox beals who's quite well known.
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there were two by jessie spiels, who is quite well known, and seven in 1911 that he acquired of louis hind from the national child labor committee that appeared in one article in 1911, which was a summary of the social reform in the country. things like that. so he wasn't really collecting -- there's no indication that he was collecting photographs with an eye to the images, just to the subjects. yes? >> did he go back to europe to give lectures? >> no. he traveled the country. he started out locally, because whatever would come up -- there was a mission on the bowery that helped him book his earliest lectures. it was this mission actually leant him money to have the first group of slides made and they publicized his lectures in the area, in the new york area. and the scrapbook shows his going to connecticut, new jersey, sometimes to pennsylvania, very locally. but later when he really started lecturing as a way to make money, that's when he took these national tours and spent three or four months on the road and they would be booked by these
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lecture bureaus, and he traveled everywhere. one of the nice things in the exhibition are the postcards he sent home to his daughter, katie, that are from the grand canyon, from the south, from the northwest. he traveled everywhere. and it's really extraordinary to think about, because this couldn't have happened without the lantern lead and it couldn't happen without the train. one of the objects that is on view is his lantern slide box. it's just a cardboard box covered in canvas, and it's really, really worn. so he carried that box of slides with him on the train, all over the country several months a year. and he had a heart condition. he had a pretty serious attack when he was 60. and he was told to slow down and he didn't. and he continued and he was constantly going on tours at a sanitarium in i want to say michigan. i can't remember. but anyway, he was constantly having to be -- he ended up dying of a weak heart at 65. so he never stopped. but it was really just -- he did travel to europe several times,
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but his traveling to europe was more to see his family in denmark. and he actually wrote a tremendous amount about denmark. he wrote this crazy article about hamlet, because there were all these -- it's like the truth about shakespeare. he actually went and found the documents in the local -- crazy story. he found the documents in the local city hall that showed when shakespeare actually visited in denmark, and then wrote this article about it. and he has a photograph there, which he didn't take, of shakespeare's tomb, which he says this is a total fake, it's just there for the tourists. his travel in europe was more related to his danish identity. although he was very involved with english -- the english were very progressive in terms of social reform. and he could sometimes mention efforts that were done there, so he made an effort to be -- but as far as i know, he didn't give talks there. yes? >> in your talk, you touched on
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ethics of documents -- [ inaudible ] >> sure. let's see. how do i do this? riis took a real hit in the 1890 -- in the 1990s, in the moment of a sort of large attack on the total humanist tradition of documentary photography, saying photographers were essentially making their own reputations on the books of the poor. so a lot of these very famous photographers were slammed hard and people turned to riis as the beginning of that criticism, the beginning of the tradition that led to those photographers. of course, the slum tour. the name of his book, "how the other half lives." i mean, talk about "the other." he's identifying from the get-go, i am on one side, describing the poor to, you
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know -- describing the other half to the well off half. i mean, that is the way he frames that book, so the book was heavily criticized for that as well as the racial stereotyping. what i found was that -- what my discovery was, all of that is true about that first book. but then there is that interesting shift in the use of the camera immediately, in 1891. when he starts photographing for "children of the poor," he has a completely different relationship. as i say, a relationship with his viewers that is very personal and that is in line with his writing, which is in general storytelling. he abandons the slum tour entirely after "the other half lives." as i say, the second book, which is more sort of morally sound in certain ways, was a complete flop as a book. so people were not interested in really learning about the
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sentimental story of little katie or little eddie the peddler, you know, or buffalo who, you know, was a shoe shine boy, these wonderful tales. their portraited fill -- their portraits filled the book and that didn't catch on with the general public. people actually liked "the slum tour." they wanted the peekaboo of the other half. but that's what is so interesting about his -- the second best seller, because that is really a contemporary view, which he tells his own story, his own tell-all. i was a homeless immigrant. i got thrown out of a police lodging house. that is so interesting. it's not really about the photography anymore. but in terms of approach to the subject of poverty, that's something that is very much in line with more contemporary ideas of people representing
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themselves as opposed to having others speak for them or others represent them. and that is so interesting. i find that really fascinating. it's no longer about photograph photographty -- photography. it's about self-representation and how to affect people, how to get people moved to care about the problems of the poor. and it may be -- and this is like totally armchair psychology on my part, but by the time he
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wrote that book, he was famous. by the time he wrote that book, he was friends with teddy roosevelt in the white house. only from that position of security was he willing to tell that story when he wrote "how the other half lives," his social status was much less clear and much less secure. so by his identifying himself in that earlier book as, well, i'm one of you. he doesn't tell the tale that he stayed in a lodging house and that he was thrown out on the street in a lodging house. he didn't tell that story, rather he says let me tell you about the chinese, the jews, let me tell you about the bohemians as a newspaperman, as someone who knows this world through my work, not my own experience. so that's the kind of shifts i see that are really important. again and again, when i give talks in new york, there was always somebody saying, wasn't he like a bad guy? aren't these photographs unethical? all i can say is yes. but what he's -- a more in-depth study shows that his ideas were
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-- about reform and representation changed over time. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you. thank you, amy. by the early fall of 1864, 5,000 men died between august and october 1864, i believe. all in total nearly 13,000 union soldiers died in andersonville in its entire existence. that's a death rate of about 45% of the total population. it was extremely high. >> at 9:00, brent glass, director emeritus of the
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smithsonian museum of natural history talks about his book and his process in selecting the various sites. at 11:00, u.s. supreme court justice steven bryer on the influence -- >> first you have security needs, like a war, or a real security problem. and you look at the document. the document says this power is primarily the president's. it's congress. it's not the court. but what about the civil liberties? there the courts do have something to say and sometimes there's a clash. so why is there so little? i think the answer is cissero. he was not one of the founders. >> and sunday at 10:00 on "road to the white house rewind," the
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1960 democratic and republican national conventions, for the democratic party nominating john f kennedy and richard nixon accepting the republican nomination. >> millions of democrats will join us not because they are deserting their party, but because their party deserted them at los angeles two weeks ago. >> all over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power. men who were not bound by the traditions of the past, men who are not blinded by the old fears and hate and rivalries, young men who can cast off the old
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sl slogans and old delusions. the republican nominee is a young man, but his approach is as old as mckinley. next on american history tv, we hear from photographers nick ut and david hume kinnerly who were recognized for their wartime work in vietnam. angela evans, dean of the lbj school of public affairs, moderates the conversation. that was part of an event that organizers called the vietnam war summit. it's about an hour.
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>> please welcome mr. tommy hoden, chairman and ceo of -- mag rabbit. [ applause ] >> thank you. gooj -- good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. welcome to the power of a picture presentation. we are going to meet two renowned photographers whose pictures change public sentiment toward the vietnam war. it is an honor for me to be here today. my name is tommy hodinh. i was born and raised near dhang ang near vietnam. i moved to u.s. for college when i was 18. when i was about 14 years old, i remember the marine landing on da nang beach. the marine were very generous to everybody. giving candy to children and


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