Jacob Riis realized that words could not fully convey reality, so he used photography to bring about reform. An immigrant from Denmark, he became a police reporter in the slums of New York during the 1870's and began a pioneering effort to document the scandalous conditions of his time. With explosive flash cartridges fired with a revolver, Riis illuminated the "unmerciful, claustrophobic life of destitution" and allowed the public a first glimpse at the poverty at their doorstep. His life was dedicated to bringing about what he called "social uplift."
This photo serves as a fantastic representation of Riis' mission. This photograph, taken in 1889 and included in his project titled How the Other Half Lives, depicts three "urchins" huddling for warmth in a window well. By capturing homeless and filthy children sleeping on the streets, he reached the collective consciousness of society and brought about reform. His message was this: No child should have to sleep outside.