The book, How the Other Half Lives is a photographic display of the impecunious state of the New York City’s slums at the end of the 19th century. His purpose of uncovering the poor state of the slums was solely to apply an influence that would bring out reforms in the city. With utmost clarity, Riis’ was able to put on show the corridors that the pitiable gladly called home. The photographs indicate the struggle for survival through unyielding battles with poverty, drug abuse and illiteracy. Having lived in the same conditions, Riis was commendable in his representation of the plight of the poor in America. Indeed, How the Other Half Lives is appealing and depicts the harsh predicaments that too many had to put up with just to survive (Pascal & Riis, 2001). The release of the book was considered as the inception of the genre of photojournalism where no authors or publishers had launched into. It not only fascinated the readers but also brought America’s history close to all. The text and the pictures of terrifying wretchedness ultimately have an impact on whoever is keen to study them. However critiques argue that the author laid more emphasis on the photographs leaving out the accompanying text that would also facilitate message delivery. Riis’ collection of pictures is now in custody of the Museum of the City of New York. Class depiction is at its best as Riis has in his pictorial exhibition. Whereas the middle and upper class lived in flourish, the lower class lived in turmoil, being prone to instances of insecurity in the timid alleys.
A raucous feature of Riis’ work is the use of racial and cultural stereotyping. Confrontational annotations are made concerning various races (Boyer, 2001). Although such remarks were tolerable in the 19th century, they do not blend in well with the today-person, especially in America. Racism was a key impediment at the time (late19th century) and the photographs depicted the neglected races. These were: the Blacks, Italians, Jews and the Chinese. In due course, even with the provocative statements, Riis’ noble goal was constant: to help the poor on the streets escape their quandary. The meager were lured into working despite the atrocious conditions they experienced. Their labor was rewarded cheaply and they had to content with appalling living conditions. At that time, some argued that animals had it better! Brooklyn and Manhattan alleys were an ordinary place of work for hawkers and those involved in illicit activities (Riis1996). Regular cries of abandoned newborns were normal and neglected cradles were a usual sight to witness.
It has been widely agreed that the work by Riis is a must have and a must read by all, notwithstanding their age, race or religion. Generational change in attitudes towards each other will to a great extent be wrought through the photography. It should be understood that the New York that promises better lives today was once a bubble of racism, poverty and total hopelessness. The book by Jacob Riis was a call to equality and progression. Positive reception has favored the production of the book, as evident in the book sales and republishing due to high demand. This was the inauguration of an idiosyncratic American communal documentary convention that continued through the 1930s. Using word and images, the author initiated ideological perspectives and emblematic strategies that are effective up to date. Without a doubt, Riis’ works will continue to have an effect on all those indulge in it.