What is the Jacob A. Riis Photography Award?

The Jacob A. Riis Photography Award supports the future of photography and civic action by bringing together youth photographers in Denmark and the United States through a competition program. The inaugural 2022 Jacob A. Riis Photography Award will recognize, celebrate, and empower young photographers ages 13-18 whose talent, creativity and community-building spirit are making the world a better place with their cameras. By creating this award, the Jacob A. Riis Museum in Ribe, Denmark advances its mission of youth education programming, showing and discussing social conditions, demonstrating how a dedicated person can contribute to the world and fostering connections between the United States and Denmark. Benefits for the youth Award finalists include becoming part of a new community of people with shared interests, museum exhibition and website honors, and cash prizes.

While technical skill and originality are important – this award competition supports the spirit, vision, energy, and passion of Jacob A. Riis who believed photography was one of the most powerful ways to tell a story, provide hope, bring light to darkness, and educate and inspire people. Riis was a self-taught photographer who never believed he was a professional photographer–though his images helped to build safer, healthier, and more just communities in New York and around the world. As a young boy in Ribe, Denmark, Jacob Riis was full of ideas, energy and a “can-do” spirit and this photography award seeks to recognize the positive energy and challenging work demonstrated by youth photographers and to affirm the value of their ideas and artistic talents.

The Jacob A. Riis Photography Award was inspired by a descendent of Jacob Riis, a youth photographer who helped develop the program and will lead the jury in the selection process. This awards program is for young people who want to use a camera to capture what matters to them, what they love and what they are curious about so that others can learn and grow too. This program is for young photographers (new, self-taught, advanced) who believe photography can change lives and communities for the better.


Applicants will:

Have a unique lens on life,

Look at the world around them from a distinct perspective,

Want others to see what they see,

Feel healthy when they are taking photos,

Share their photos so others can “go” places they cannot go on their own.


Applicants will believe a photo can:






The program encourages young photographers to grow their technical talent and demonstrate how their photos shed light on any number of subjects including but not limited to:

Marine conservation, housing, childcare, endangered species, parks and green spaces, safety in aging, infrastructure, climate change, living with disabilities, poverty, wildlife, social justice, light pollution, pet therapy, immigration, zoology, clean water, community gardens…

Applicants can submit up to five single images (each with an accompanying written description no more than 250 words) sharing how and why their photo(s) can inspire, educate, heal and/or encourage others to action. Does the photo encourage the viewer to want to know more? To be kinder? To want to share what they learned from the photo? For example, a photo might give the viewer a new perspective on the subject or scene because of the composition and how the content of the photo communicates emotion. The subject might be a volunteer building a community garden, an animal in its habitat, a Special Olympian supporting a teammate, a safe bridge providing access to workers, local farm addressing climate change, healthy or unhealthy marine life, a family member caring for another…. Applicants will submit photos that show the beauty, drama, intensity, and diversity of our world.

Please visit The Jacob A. Riis Photography Award to review competition overview and submittal instructions.

The award program launches August 1st, 2022 and ends November 30th 2022.

Background Information on Jacob A. Riis and the Jacob A. Riis Museum

The Jacob A. Riis Museum in Ribe, Denmark tells the fascinating story of the boy from Ribe who emigrated to America in 1870. Jacob’s hard-hitting articles and photos of New York’s wretched slums were an eye-opener for the world. Jacob Riis lived from 1849-1914 and was known as the pioneer of photojournalism—a highly influential reporter, photographer, author, lecturer, and social reformer. Jacob A. Riis documented and helped to improve the living conditions of millions of poor immigrants in New York. President Theodore Roosevelt described Riis as America’s most useful citizen. His focus was on the crises in poverty, housing, and education at the height of European immigration, when the Lower East Side of New York City became the most densely populated place on Earth. His innovative use of flashlight photography to document and portray the squalid living conditions, homeless children and filthy alleyways of New York’s tenements was revolutionary, showing the nightmarish conditions to an otherwise blind public. His innovative use of ‘magic lantern’ picture lectures coupled with gifted storytelling and energetic work ethic captured the imagination of his middle-class audience and set in motion long lasting social reform, as well as documentary, investigative photojournalism. His is the story of how hard work and the will to create a more healthy and just society can benefit people and communities around the world – then and now.


The overall awardees in the 2022 Jacob A. Riis Photography Award will be announced in January 2023 and will go on display as part of an online and in-person exhibition at the Jacob A. Riis Museum in Ribe, Denmark in 2023.