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“How the Other Half Lives” Analysis and Observations

Kay Davis, M.A., University of Virginia. “Documenting “The Other Half”: The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine.” Documenting “The Other Half”: The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.HOW

These pictures were truly eye-opening as they depicted a new life-style for the lower class in the early 20th century, in a time of financial and technological advancements. Immigrants were entering America worldwide, businesses and corporations were calling for the rise of capitalism; and a huge social gap would arise as a result. How do these photos help us conclude life for the worker class in big cities?

The first thing observed in the pictures was the poor living conditions of these workers. They were all big groups or families, living in small quarters. They looked dirty, dusty, broken-down, and literally like a small space that they found in the city and called ” theirs”. Many of the pictures also show the price the workers had to pay to live there, showing that they were expensive considering the conditions they lived in.  “Nibsy’s Alley”, “the Old Street Attic”, “Walls Begin to Give”, and the “Elric Street Police Lodger”s are all examples of these conditions. The picture of ” Night School” show a group of young boys being taught late at night, and falling asleep. This was also impactful, because education at night goes to show they were so busy in the day, and therefore school came second. The need to work and be successful came first. ” Bohemian Cigarmakers at Work in Their Tenement” and ” In a Sweat Shop” were both showing how the workers produced labor. The boy with the bruised eye was upsetting; depecting the fact that labor started so young, and in such harmful conditions. He is also surrounded by a group of older men. In the other picture, the men work in tiny, small work areas. Therefore, it can be concluded that not only living quarters, and education was slacking, but so were the conditions at work.

I chose the picture above to link on the the post because, I find it completely shocking that people would go and sleep in such small, poor, conditions. It goes to show the difference in social classes greatly, because while some people had no option but to pay, and sleep in hammocks with a hundred of other people in the room, others were living lavishly in palace-like households. All these photos go to show the huge differences in lifestyle; and ironically, these workers would make it possible for the head of corporations to never have to life in the poor conditions depicted.

 

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