Jacob A Riis: Revealing New York's Other Half

New York, NY

The Museum of the City of New mounted the first major retrospective of Riis’s photographic work in the United States since World War II. Our challenge was to create an immersive environment in which visitors could understand the context and impact of Riis’ work. As project manager, I was lead designer and construction administrator.

The design team’s strategy was to incorporate the photos and other artifacts into casework designed with a flexible area for labeling that did not distract from the overall interpretation of the objects. By creating vitrines instead of framing the photos, we presented them for what they really are, not works of art, but careful documents of the human condition. The poignancy of these small images comes through as they are held forward individually on mounts instead of being rarified in framing. We used black backgrounds and a rich dark wood color that worked together to give the photos more contrast and less yellow. Visitors reacted in favor of the design aesthetic and its simple wood frames as a metaphoric connection to the spaces where Riis often photographed. The project won an SEGD Merit Award in 2016.

Client:               Museum of the City of New York

Team:                Studio Joseph: Wendy Evans Joseph (principal                                           in charge)

Completed:      October 2015

Photography:   Thomas Loof

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