As early as 1900, another shift in photography began. The age of portraiture had long past, and although it was still present, it did not carry the same strength and influence as it may have when the camera first arrived. Matthew Brady had pioneered war photography, and forced the public to view the realities of a warring nation on the battle field.

However, there was still a faction of society left unknown and unobserved by the public eye. This task was bravely trekked by the photographer Jacob Riis who devoted his life to the betterment of children and workers in the mills, mines, and impoverished slums of the country, of which so many wealthy and middle class citizens were dumb, deaf and blind to.

Social photography exploited and attacked the disturbingly rich, selfish and ignorant business owners, factory owners, etc. who contaminated and disrupted the lives of so many, as well as investigating the slums of the cities, and the conditions within. In other words, social photography advocated for social change and improvement.