Monday, January 23, 2006

Speed Graphic camera: photojournalists' choice for decades

Jacob Riis, muckraker journalist and author, would've used a bulky but high-quality camera similar to this Speed Graphic. The photojournalist in this photo is the famous Manhattan crime-scene specialist who used the name Weegee.

Riis was Danish and was impoverished when he came to NYC. As a photojournalist he was sympathetic to the immigrants struggling to find education and jobs while living in wretched tenements. His book on poverty in NYC, How the Other Half Lives, is a landmark work in US history.

Riis was a crusading journalist, unafraid to oppose the authorities and wealthy class. He was of a group called the muckrakers.

After the muckrakers stirred the public, legislators passed laws protecting Americans from abuses in
* child labor
* sanitary housing
* workplace safety
* safe medicine
* safe food

Riis was one of the first to use flash in photojournalism. He presented lectures across the nation to America's comfortable class on the deleterious effects of urban poverty.

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