Italian Rag pickers
New Jersey, 1888
This photo's subjects include a older woman holding her child. During this time, many lower-class American citizens along the east coast had taking up rag picking. Rag picking is basically taking litter and abandoned goods off the streets to sell and pawn after cleaning. It developed the name through originally finding rags in the streets or garbage and washing them to sell to others. These subjects were some of the many Riis would take pictures of at night. Being one of the first flash photographers, Riis liked to capture the New York slums at it's most feared hours.
Riis's photography was loved my the working and lower class. It showed the poverty endured by homeless and lower class Americans. It helped show the upper and middle class the masses of unemployed and how impoverished they were. Some argue that Riis's work shows how the immigrant populations would live together in large numbers just to save and not spoil themselves, but most believe his work was intended to inform the world of what they chose to ignore.
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