The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Friday, July 4, 2008


I don't want to say anything against Jacob Riis, because he obviously had a passion for reform and his work was very effective. But every time I look at his photos I'm struck by how many pictures he took of sleeping street urchins. Tons of them, usually huddled together in a pile in some dirty back alley corner, or on some wretched staircase, their angelic slumbering faces a very photogenic contrast to their ragged clothing. I just don't see how anybody could have stumbled on so many sleeping kids, especially with good lighting, and without waking them up. And I wonder how many boys would be sleeping like that, all cuddled up without poking and shoving and cursing each other. Maybe they were huddled together for warmth, but it seems to me that boys wouldn't want anybody touching them, and certainly not each other. However, I have never been a street urchin, so who knows.

But I do wonder if Riis posed some of his photos. And if so, I wonder if he paid the kids to drape themselves over each other and act like they were asleep. You'd think he would, being such a reformer and patron of the poor. And you'd think those kids were pretty tough and wouldn't curl up together just because some photographer told them to. It would be awful if Riis told the starving homeless kids to pose for him and then didn't give them a dime. Surely he did pay them. Surely he didn't just say, "Hey kids, lemme take your picture and you can be in a book!"

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