Location

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

Description

This study examines the birth and evolution of the social documentary genre in visual media. It suggests that a mixture of ideology, technology, and social awareness are necessary for a successful social reform. It finds that despite the limitations of technology during the nineteenth century, social documentaries were produced long before they were part of the genres of photography and film. By focusing on the work of Danish photographer Jacob Riis and tracing the emergence of film, this study demonstrates a connection between documentary film and Riis’s social documentary photography and public slide exhibitions. The study concludes that in order to understand the present, one must study the past, and in these terms, Riis’s work could be viewed as a precursor of the social documentary genre in visual media. Ultimately, the findings demonstrate the importance of visual documentaries, the idea that it anchors historical and collective memory, and that its history is still relevant to the twenty-first century.

Keywords

Awareness--Social aspects; Documentary films; Documentary photography; Documentary photography--Social aspects; History; Ideology; Mass media; Mass media--Social aspects; Photography; Photography—Exhibitions; Photojournalism; Reformation--Social aspects; Riis, Jacob A. (Jacob August), 1849-1914; Technology

Disciplines

Communication | Film and Media Studies | Journalism Studies | Photography | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Influence and Political Communication | Visual Studies

Language

English

 
Apr 21st, 1:00 AM Apr 21st, 2:30 AM

Gilded Age Visual Media as the Impetus for Social Change: Jacob Riis’s Reform Photography and the Antecedents of Documentary Film

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

This study examines the birth and evolution of the social documentary genre in visual media. It suggests that a mixture of ideology, technology, and social awareness are necessary for a successful social reform. It finds that despite the limitations of technology during the nineteenth century, social documentaries were produced long before they were part of the genres of photography and film. By focusing on the work of Danish photographer Jacob Riis and tracing the emergence of film, this study demonstrates a connection between documentary film and Riis’s social documentary photography and public slide exhibitions. The study concludes that in order to understand the present, one must study the past, and in these terms, Riis’s work could be viewed as a precursor of the social documentary genre in visual media. Ultimately, the findings demonstrate the importance of visual documentaries, the idea that it anchors historical and collective memory, and that its history is still relevant to the twenty-first century.