Gavin Browning is a writer based in Long Island City.
An architectural oddity stands out amidst the landmark homes of Greenwich Village: at 18 West 11th Street, the front door is recessed at an angle, the bay window a jutting, diagonal wedge of brick and glass. Distinctively nineteen- rather than eighteen-eighties in design, it is where prominent political activist and Weatherman leader Cathy Wilkerson found grisly realization of the radical catchphrase “Bring the War Home.” She didn’t mean it to be this close—it was her dad’s house that blew up on the morning of March 6, 1970 with her and four others inside.
Of the many questions raised by Bonnie Yochelson and Daniel Czitroms Rediscovering Jacob Riis, the foremost may be why reconsider him at all? The original purveyor of the harsh truth of the camera eye, a mainstay in the annals of American photography, population health and housing reform histories, and the namesake of major public works throughout the five boroughs, surely Riis life and work is well-trodden ground. Yet the impulse to revisit this figure now may stretch beyond the subject matter, to wider shifts in global demographics.