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I

An Autobiography
BY JACOB A. RIIS

Author of "How the Other Half Lives," "A Ten Years' War," etc., etc. Chapter XI.-The Bend is Laid upon which our purpose is sharpened, by the Heels

and in that sense we have apparently got

to be thankful for it. So a man may F there be any to whom the travail pummel his adversary and accept him as

through which we have just come a means of grace at the same time. If seems like a mighty tempest in a there were no snags, there would be no teapot, let him quit thinking so. wits to clear them away, or strong arms

It was not a small matter. To be to wield the ax. It was the same story sure, the wrong could have been undone in with the Mulberry Bend. Until the tramp a day by the authorities, had they been lodging-houses were closed, until the so minded. That it was not undone was Bend was gone, it seemed as if progress largely, and illogically, , because no one were flat down impossible. As I said, had a word to say in its defense. When decency had to begin there, or not at all. there are two sides to a thing, it is not Before I tackle the Bend perhaps I had difficult to get at the right of it in an better explain how I came to take up argument and to carry public opinion for photographing as a-no, not exactly as a the right. But when there is absolutely pastime. It was never that with me. I nothing to be said against a proposed had use for it, and beyond that I never reform, it seems to be human nature- went. I am downright sorry to confess American human nature, at all events—to here that I am no good at all as a photogexpect it to carry itself through with the rapher, for I would like to be. The thing general good wishes but no particular lift is a constant marvel to me and an unendfrom any one. It is a very charming ing delight. To watch the picture come expression of our faith in the power of out upon the plate that was blank before the right to make its way, only it is all and that saw with me for perhaps the wrong: it will not make its way in the merest fraction of a second, maybe months generation that sits by to see it move. It before, the thing it has never forgotten, is has got to be moved along, like everything a new miracle every time. If I were a else in this world, by men. That is how clergyman I would practice photography we take title to the name. That is what and preach about it. But I am jealous is the matter with half our dead-letter of the miracle. I do not want it explained laws. The other half were just still-born. to me in terms of HO or such like It is so, at this moment, with the chil- formulas, learned, but so hopelessly unsat. dren's playgrounds in New York. Prob- isfying. I do not want my butterfly ably all thinking people subscribe to-day stuck on a pin and put in a glass case. to the statement that it is the business of I want to see the sunlight on its wings as the municipality to give its children a it fits from flower to flower, and I don't chance to play, just as much as to give care a rap what its Latin name may be. them schools to go to. Everybody Anyway, it is not its name. The sun applauds it. The authorities do not and the flower and the butterfly know question it; but still they do not provide that. The man who sticks a pin in it playgrounds. Private charity has to keep does not and never will, for he knows not a beggarly half-dozen going where there its language. Only the poet does among ought to be forty or fifty. Call it official men. So, you see, I am disqualified from conservatism, inertia, treachery, call it by being a photographer. Also, I am clumsy, soft names or hard, in the end it comes to and impatient of details. The ax was this, I suppose, that it is the whetstone ever more to my liking than the graving'Copyright, 1901, the Outlook Company.

tool. I have lived to see the day of the ax and enjoy it, and now I rejoice in the good fellow besides, who entered into my coming of the men and women who know; plans with great readiness. The news the Jane Addamses who to heart add had already excited much interest among knowledge and training, and with gentle New York photographers, professional hands bind up wounds which, alas! too and otherwise, and no time was lost in often I struck. It is as it should be. I communicating with the other side. Withonly wish they would see it and leave me in a fortnight a raiding party composed of out for my sins.

Dr. Henry G. Piffard and Richard Hoe But there! I started out to tell about Lawrence, two distinguished amateurs, how I came to be a photographer, and Dr. Nagle and myself, and sometimes a here I am, off on the subject of philan policeman or two, invaded the East Side thropy and social settlements. To be by night, bent on letting in the light where precise, then, I began taking pictures by it was so much needed. proxy. It was upon my midnight trips At least that was my purpose. To the with the sanitary police that the wish photographers it was a voyage of discovkept cropping up in me that there were ery of the greatest interest; but the some way of putting before the people interest centered in the camera and the what I saw there. A drawing might have flashlight. The police went along from done it, but I cannot draw, never could. curiosity; sometimes for protection. For There are certain sketches of mine now that they were hardly needed. It is not on record that always arouse the boister- too much to say that our party carried ous hilarity of the family. They were terror wherever it went. The flashlight made for the instruction of our first baby of those days was contained in cartridges in wolf-lore, and I know they were highly fired from a revolver. The spectacle of appreciated by him at the time. Maybe half a dozen strange men invading a the fashion in wolves has changed since. house in the midnight hour armed with But, anyway, a drawing would not be evi- big pistols which they shot off recklessly dence of the kind I wanted. We used to was hardly reassuring, however honeyed go in the small hours of the morning into our words, and it was not to be wondered the worst tenements to count noses and at if the tenants bolted through windows see if the law against overcrowding was and down fire-escapes wherever we went. violated, and the sights I saw there gripped But as no one was murdered, things calmed my heart until I felt that I must tell of down after a while, though months after I them, or burst, or turn anarchist, or some- found the recollection of our visits hangthing. A man may be a man “even in a ing over a Stanton Street block like a palace" in modern New York as in ancient nightmare. We got some good pictures ; Rome, but not in a slum tenement. So it but very soon the slum and the awkward seemed to me, and in anger I looked hours palled upon the amateurs. I found around for something to strike off his myself alone just when I needed help fetters with. But there was nothing. most. I had made out by the flashlight

I wrote, but it seemed to make no im- possibilities my companions little dreamed pression. One morning, scanning my of. . newspaper at the breakfast-table, I put it I hired a professional photographer down with an outcry that startled my wife, next whom I found in dire straits. He sitting opposite.' There it was, the thing was even less willing to get up at 2 A.M. I had been looking for all those years. than my friends who had a good excuse. A four-line despatch from somewhere in He had none, for I paid him well. He Germany, if I remember right, had it all. repaid me by trying to sell my photographs A way had been discovered, it ran, to behind my back. I had to replevin the take pictures by flashlight. The darkest negatives to get them away from him. corner might be photographed that way. He was a pious man, I take it, for when I I went to the office full of the idea, and tried to have him photograph the waifs in lost no time in looking up Dr. John T. the baby nursery at the Five Points House Nagle, at the time in charge of the Bureau of Industry, as they were saying their of Vital Statistics in the Health Depart- “Now I lay me down to sleep," and the ment, to tell him of it. Dr. Nagle was plate came out blank the second time, he an amateur photographer of merit and a owned up that it was his doing : it went

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MULBERRY BEND AS IT WAS against his principles to take a picture of myself up the Sound to the Potter's Field any one at prayers. So I had to get on its desert island to make my first obseranother man with some trouble and ex- vations. There at least I should be alone, pense. But on the whole I think the with no one to bother me. And I wanted experience was worth what it cost. a picture of the open trench. I got it, too. spectacle of a man prevented by religious When I say that with the sunlight of a scruples from photographing children at January day on the white snow I exposed prayers, while plotting at the same time to that extra-quick instantaneous plate first rob his employer, has been a kind of for six seconds, then for twelve, to make chart to me that has piloted me through sure I got the picture, and then put the more than one quagmire of queer human plate-holder back among the rest so that nature. Nothing could stump me after I did not know which was which, amateur that. The man was just as sincere in photographers will understand the situathe matter of his scruple as he was ras- tion. I had to develop the whole twelve cally in his business dealings with me.

"Men are ever prone to doubt what they cannot under There was at last but one way out of it; stand. With all the accumulated information on the sub namely, for me to get a camera myself. at the last moment I weaken and take it under protest This I did, and with a dozen plates took rebusing are believe that it can be a little more taith

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