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A documentary about Jacob A. Riis
Citizen Dane is a Danish company that produces movies and communication. Their director Marcus Mandal is behind the TV-series A Royal Family and KAREN BLIXEN – Out Of This World. At the moment they are trying to fund a documentary about the world famous journalist and photographer, Jacob A. Riis.
The award-winning director Marcus Mandal is fascinated about Jacob A. Riis. In the fall of 2009 Marcus Mandal went to Ribe in order to produce a trailer about Jacob A. Riis. The trailer will be used to raise awareness and for fundraising for the hopefully future documentary about Jacob A. Riis. Ribes 1300th jubilee supports the production of the trailer, and we are delighted to present it here.
Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914)
Jacob August Riis was born in Ribe. He was son of the local school teacher, Niels Edvard Riis and his wife Carolina. Jacob A. Riis was not particularly interested in the school; and he left it to become a carpenter.
Riis fell madly in love with Elisabeth, an upper class girl in Ribe, but the connection was impossible, and she rejected him. In 1870 he left for the United States, where he the first couple of years almost lived off the street as a vagabond, carpenter, salesman etc. During that period he lived among the poorest people in New York, but no matter how poor and starving he was, he never abandoned the hope of one day returning to Ribe as a wealthy man in order to marry Elisabeth.
Eventually that became possible. He got a job as a police reporter for a New York newspaper, and he began describing the crime and poverty of New York. Some years later he even edited his own newspaper, and now he returned to Denmark to propose to Elisabeth. In his absent years she had been in love with another man, but he died shortly before their marriage. She now accepted the proposal of Jacob A. Riis, and they left for New York together – and eventually they had a very happy marriage.
Jacob A. Riis had begun taking photographs and writing reports about the slum and poverty of New York, and in 1890 his big breakthrough came with the book “How The Other Half Lives”. With photographs and detailed descriptions of the poor the book shocked the Americans. Riis became an avid commentator and lecturer upon this subject, and he had a powerful ally in Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), who became President of The United States. Roosevelt described Riis as a very close friend and “the most useful citizen of New York”. Jacob A. Riis continued travelling around giving lectures and publishing books about the poor of the nation until the end of his life. You can read “How The Other Half Lives” at Wikisource.
Tom Buk-Swienty: The Other Half: The Life Of Jacob Riis And The World Of Immigrant America, 2008.
Among the publications of Jacob A. Riis are:
How The Other Half Lives, 1890.
Out Of Mulberry Street, 1898.
The Making Of An American, 1901.
Pictures from Ribe. Copyright: Citizen Dane.