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Rock and Hammer Inspiration The Stonecutter’s Creedo by Jacob Riis


Stonecutter's Creedo, Jacob Riis

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” ┬áThe Stonecutter’s Creedo – Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis was a Danish immigrant who knew what is was to be poor. Fortunately, for Riis, he had the ability to write, leading him to employment in the world of journalism. He became a police reporter for the New York Tribune, working in the worst slums of the city. As a result of his experiences, Riis went on to become one of the early reformer journalists. Yet, it was the invention of flash photography that changed his life. The flash allowed Riis, and his friends, to photograph the tenements of New York City and capture life in the slums via images, as opposed to just describing what they saw to their readers. However, due to the nature of publishing in the late 19th century, Riis was forced to take little steps to shed light on the subject: first by giving lectures, then by writing a magazine article, and finally, by writing his life’s defining work – How the Other Half Lives, taking the title from Fran├žois Rabelais: “one half of the world does not know how the other half lives”. This was Riis’ personal Battle with the Slum.

So what does this have to do with the SMITH organization? SMITH embraces a unique perspective on surface-prep work. And even though Steven Smith would be the first person to say that surface-prep work is not of the same importance as livable housing for the poor, he believes that the stonecutter’s quote was a different way to get everyone to think about things differently.”

May it inspire us all to do the same.

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