I have a soft spot for Jacob Riis photos: those that seem to startle basement drunks from their sleep and those that seem a little too artfully staged. Of the latter, the one above is my favorite. “Bandit’s Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street” was shot by Riis or one of his associates in 1887. It aims to depict one of the most notorious parts of the neighborhood just north of the Five Points.
Of this address, and the infamous Mulberry Bend more generally, Riis wrote in his most famous book, How the Other Half Lives (1890):
Abuse is the normal condition of
Wow. Giuliani really was tough on crime. He got rid of the whole thing and built a park instead.
I think it is really interesting that Riis chose to photograph 59 1/2 specifically. I think choosing 59 1/2 instead of say just 59 is another level of staging Riis used. The tenement areas were so crowded that whole numbers on the buildings were not enough, half numbers had to be used as well, and I think by choosing a half number Riis is trying to point this out to his audience.
nothing menacing in the second photo