on 14 January 2012
The whole series of Phaidon 55's are all excellent introductions to the key photographers in history, and this one is no exception. Jacob Riis was an important photographer from the beginning of the 20th century and one of the few people to photograph the New York slums on the lower East side. He was a pioneer of photo-journalism and understood the power it can have to reform society. This book contains 55 photographs in chronological order, each depicting the filth and degradation that made this area of the city a hell for the immigrants that lived there. Riis himself was an immigrant, and after years of poverty, he wanted to expose a life which he was far too familiar with.
The book is on the small size, measuring only 15x13cm but this doesnt take away from the great quality of the images on each facing page. The book also contains an introductory biography and details about each photograph.
I would also recommend 'How the other half lives' which is the original book Riis published in 1901.