Category Archives: Photography

Jacob Riis: Photojournalist and Public Health Defender

A man to be admired for his service to the public's health is photojournalist Jacob Riis (1849-1914). Riis emigrated from Denmark to NYC with his family in 1870. He spent much of his young adulthood sleeping in unsanitary police lodging stations as he was unable to find work or support himself. This is where he got his taste of the impoverished conditions in New York City. By 1888 Riis worked his way up to being a photojournalist for the New York Evening Sun (Simkin, J, Spartacus Educational). Riis was determined to expose the otherwise unknown but filthy conditions the "other half" were forced to live in. His effort was aided by flash powder, of which Riis was one of the first photographers to use. Before, not only were the poor other half ignored, but it was also difficult to document their living conditions as electricity was scarce and their homes and environments were dimly lit. After taking hundreds of photographs, in 1890 Riis published his photos and commentary in How the Other Half Lives. New York Police Commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt was greatly impacted by the disturbing images he saw in the book and called for police lodging stations to be closed (Simkin, J.,Spartacus Educational). Through articles, books, and lectures Riis targeted landlords and public officials he saw as responsible for the deplorable living conditions. With the backing of many philanthropists Riis saw his work influence the making of child labor laws, education, parks, regulation of tenements (only 24/609 deemed livable), and the demolition of slums in NYC (Sussman, J.,The Newark Metro).

A public health pioneer in his own right, Riis exemplified the leadership principles needed in the field of public health. His commitment, engagement, and courage were clearly demonstrated every day and night he went out into the slums, every room or tavern he photographed, and every gang-ridden street he walked down. He shed light on how "the other half" lived to an ignorant public. His lectures, photographs, articles, and over 12 published books demonstrated his whole commitment and engagement to a growing problem in NYC (Simkin, J.,Spartacus Educational). In regards to his attitude, dignity, and perspective Riis remained a man with an unwavering goal: to improve the living conditions of the poor in NYC. Riis did not discuss bettering the lives of individuals, but rather bettering society. He stuck with this mindset and this is what appealed to people like Theodore Roosevelt. Lastly, initiative, pride, and servanthood were principles Riis stood by to bring about the change he worked so hard for. He was just a photojournalist for a news paper, but he saw a drastic problem that needed the public's attention and he took the initiative to use his talents to improve the situation. Riis really made this his life's work, he took great pride in sharing his experiences and ideas both orally, visually, and in text.

Riis had no training in health, but saw where something could be done better, for the benefit of people and society. He knew that unsanitary, crowded conditions and filthy streets were unhealthy for people. It was through his efforts that lives for many New Yorkers were improved and what he achieved is still practiced today. Riis sums up his reason for his work in the conclusion of How the Other Half Lives by stating, "Against all other dangers our system of government may offer defense and shelter; against this not. I know of but one bridge that will carry us over safe, a bridge founded upon justice and built of human hearts" (Riis, How the other Half Lives).

To see Riis' photographs and writings go to

Jacob Riis, CHAPTER XXV How the Case Stands [From How the Other Half Lives] , The Authentic History Center

John Simkin. American Journalist, Spartacus Educational.

Jonathan Sussman, Jacob Riis, Writer With a Camera, The Newark Metro.

Photographs for Child Models

Years ago I decided to make my niche in photography working with child and teen models. I love working with
children and their innocence and hated the scams parents fell trap to and I wound up carving a spot for myself by being honest and producing the types of photographs that the agencies wanted, the ones with the wow factor!

As an up and coming model and her parents start to put her marketing tools together there are some key things that even if everything else is perfect, missing these could cost many opportunities in this industry. What I have learned in my profession is "Not every child is beautiful, yet, every child is beautiful"! If you are serious about getting your child into the modeling industry you need to know what to put into practice NOW.

You need to know which direction you want to go in! This is easy for kids as commercial, print, and catalog are the ones most agencies look for. Study this area, see the look that sells. If every picture in magazines is of blond haired blue eyed babies, than that's the trend. This does not mean your dark haired child will not work, only that they will get less work at this time. It can take up to two years for a child model to catch on at an agency. You must be very patient. Agencies usually work filling their houses with what sells so if you get turned down now, just resubmit in six to eight months when the trend changes.

You DO NOT need professional photographs to submit your child to an agency for consideration, however you do need good pictures. Do not use school, sports, or dance photos from your child's extracurricular activities, they are not what the agents look for and they usually do not show your child in the best light even if you think it's a great shot. Take the time and go to the beach, park, etc and take candid shots of your child/teen, not posed. You want the pictures to talk, ones that you can hear the laughter just by looking at the smile! Never pack makeup on a child and never make them look sexy. I wonder why parents want their five year old daughter to look and act 16 when all the agency wants is a five year old child! Always keep your child looking their age, this is how the agency markets them, this is where they fit into the scheme of things. You will never see a five year old on the cover of Vogue or GQ! When it's time to start working on comp cards, hire a photographer that takes the time to listen to you and what the needs are for your child and your budget. Tell them what you are looking for. Never fall for the Agency Scam of " I work with a few photographers". Just thank them and check them out and than check out others in your area and work with the ones you are the most comfortable with. Unless it's a top notch agency you can pick a photographer of your own choosing, if you can't, run, chances are it's a scam!

Make sure the photographer you choose has worked with children before and I do not mean in a department store kiosk! Not everyone can work with children and right now you need photos that will blow them away. I heard this from someone eons ago but it has helped me many times over and I will pass it on to you."When you are at the store, in the checkout, watch how people scan the magazines, either a cover grabs them or it doesn't…the cover must reach out in that one instant and say hey! The same holds true in the modeling industry. Your photographer must create that stunning look…the one that grabs right away! You need to grab their attention with that one WOW photo of your child that makes them say this is the one! Demand high standards from yourself and whoever is working with you creating your modeling marketing tools. Use a critical eye when deciding which shots make the comp card, Sadly, NOT all of your child's pictures are great though as parents we would like to believe that they are. Your comp cards should only be crafted with the stunning and unforgettable photos. Do not pick the mediocre ,only the very best, the ones that will make a lasting impression into the minds of all who look upon them.