Jacob Riis immigrated to the United States from Denmark in 1870. After years of extreme poverty and hardship he finally found employment as a police reporter for the New York Tribune in 1877. In the 1880s his work gravitated towards reform and he worked with other New York reformers then crusading for better living conditions for the thousands of immigrants flocking to New York in search of new opportunities. His most popular work, How The Other Half Lives, became a pivotal work that precipitated much needed reforms and made him famous. Jacob Riis's photography, taken up to help him document the plight of the poor, made him an important figure in the history of documentary photography.
Jacob Riis employed a blend of reporting, reform and photography that made him a unique legend in all three fields. Theodore Roosevelt held Riis in very high esteem offering him positions of power and influence in his administration and calling him, "the most useful citizen of New York". Instead Riis continued his creative work, producing books on the plight of poor children , immigrants and tenement dwellers. He died in 1914.