More than 50,000 people from across the world will come together today, huddled, waiting in shivering masses as the sun rises beyond the Verrazano Bridge, their collage of neons stretching backwards into Staten Island as they wait for the 47th annual New York City Marathon to begin.
This year’s race will mark the 40th anniversary of the marathon’s expansion to all five boroughs (previously it had been run entirely in Manhattan), which gave us more-or-less the route in use today.
The New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, estimates that this year over one million spectators will line the 26.2 mile course, marked by billowing royal blue banners and a wide river of trampled Gatorade cups. Millions more will watch live broadcasts on New York’s local ABC affiliate and ESPN2, as well as international media partners bringing the race to countries across the globe.
For New Yorkers, it’s hard to imagine the city without the marathon, which has made the first Sunday in November one of the High Holidays of New York’s civic religion. Yet to those who ran in the first NYC Marathon, back in 1970, the race of today would be unrecognizable.
That race, organized by the Road Runner’s Club and the New York City Parks Department, was run entirely within the confines of Central Park by a small group of runners, most of whom knew each other by first name. (According several participants in the race, there were “some people from out of town” competing as well.) It was announced with little fanfare in a Parks Department press release: “The New York City Marathon has developed from the efforts and enthusiasm of New Yorkers who participated in physical fitness programs and jogging.” No billboards, no TV ads, nothing.
New York has hosted marathons (varying in route and legitimacy) since the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the early races were run on streets filled with cars and sponsored by local newspapers or manufacturers. Often, employees of the sponsoring companies were paid to participate.
In 1909, C.W. Smith, a major in the National Guard, organized the first edition of the Brooklyn-Sea Gate Marathon, which was held in February on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The original route looked similar to a back-and-forth version of the modern Brooklyn Half Marathon, starting at the Park Slope Armory on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, circling Prospect Park and continuing down Ocean Parkway and around to the entrance of Sea Gate, where the runners turned around.
Runners gather at the starting line of the first NYC Marathon in Central Park, 1970. (Ruth Orkin/Ruth Orkin Photo Archive)
After a number of racers in the inaugural race passed out from exhaustion, organizers of the race partnered with the Brooklyn Eagle and Italian newspaper Il Progresso to organize a “Great Brooklyn Marathon” on Washington’s birthday, instituting a requirement that participants undergo a physical examination before competing. “Untrained” runners were banned. Il Progresso offered a prize for the first Italian runner to finish. That race was only held once.Reports of the Sea-Gate marathons were grim. In 1913, the Times ran an article headlined “Exhausted Runners Fall in Brooklyn,” describing in graphic terms the misery of the race, which was run in 20 degree weather:
Along along the twenty-five-mile route, starting from the armory at Putnam Avenue and Sumner Avenue to Sea Gate via Coney Island and return, could be seen bare-legged youths caring for their cuts and bruises and being cared for at the various stages where the icy road had caused them to come to grief or the extreme cold had forced them to drop out. … No worse weather conditions have ever prevailed for a Marathon race, and the ten who finished out of the forty-five starters will probably feel the effects of their gruelling contest in more ways than one…There were stretches on the parkway that were covered with ice, and those of the pack that reached these points slipped and fell. They were generally badly cut around the shins and knees, and when they returned to the armory, where the last two miles of the race were completed, their bloody legs presented anything but an inspiring sight.
Ruth Orkin’s photograph of Jane Jacobs included in new book “Vital Little Plans The Short Works of Jane Jacobs” by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.
Vital Little Plans brings together for the first time a career-spanning selection of essays, articles, speeches and interviews by the great urban thinker Jane Jacobs.
The writings range from her earliest reporting on New York’s streets in the 1930s to selections from her two unfinished books in the 2000s. Some pieces shed new light on her ideas about cities, economics and ethics that make up her well-known books, like The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities. Others explore topics rarely addressed directly in her major works, from skyscrapers to feminism to universal health care to gentrification. Most importantly, Vital Little Plans reveals Jacobs as she herself wished to be understood: as a writer who tried to observe human life as closely as she could.
The book includes introductions and annotations that provide historical and biographical context, and connect the dots within Jacobs’ ecology of ideas.
To be published by Random House, October 11, 2016.
Marion Anderson and Leonard Bernstein, Lewisohn Stadium, NYC, 1947, Copyright Ruth Orkin
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts. Nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members of the museum. When the NMAAHC opens on September 24, 2016, it will be the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
NEW YORK MAGAZINE issue devoted to fashion titled: “What We Wore” features Ruth Orkin photograph, “David in Penn Station, NYC, 1947” and many other photographs of fashions in New York though the years.
Cathy Dunn from a scene at Macy’s in “Lovers and Lollipops”
Another inspiration was “Lovers and Lollipops,” the Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin feature in which a widow, her new suitor and her daughter go on an excursion around New York City.
“That became a really amazing document for locations, because it was all shot in real places with natural light in New York close enough to when ‘Carol’ takes place,” Mr. Haynes said. A scene in “Lovers and Lollipops” set in the Macy’s toy section inspired the department-store scenes in “Carol.”
The book collected a selection of 1950s photojournalism that revealed a “distressed, dirty, sagging city” that jarred with their own romanticised notions of New York at the time. Aptly for a film that prioritises female perspectives, many of these photographers were women: Ruth Orkin, Helen Levitt, Esther Bubley and Vivian Maier were all major influences for the team behind Carol. Haynes added that this was where the film developed its “soiled colour palette”.
SS INSIDER: Awards Feature: Director Todd Haynes finds inspiration for CAROL in obscure docudrama “Lost Language of Feminity” 12/17/15
Instead, he found inspiration in an obscure 1956 docudrama called Lovers and Lollipops, directed by Ruth Orkin and Morris Engle. It was about a single mother, and was shot on location in New York. “Everything about the movie was useful because it was such a slice of life of the time,” says Haynes. “It wasn’t how women behave today, in a post 60s or 70s Patti Smith world. It was almost something you would see in your grandmother. It was a lost language of femininity.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Making of CAROL: Why It Took 60 Years to Film the Lesbian Love Story 1/5/16
Preproduction began in January 2014, with Nagy overseeing minor script rewrites as the director amassed an overstuffed “look book” to inspire his production team (he was drawn to archival images by street photographers of the era like Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt and Ruth Orkin).
AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER – December 2015 Ed Lachman, ASC, taps Super 16 for Todd Haynes period melodrama CAROL
Lachman reveals that Therese’s early photos were in fact shot in the 1960s by photographer Brian Blauser, and her later work was shot byCarol’s set photographer, Wilson Webb. The filmmakers wanted Therese’s photos to share the same sensitivity and gritty realism found in the work of mid-20th century female photographers like Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, Ruth Orkin, Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt and Vivian Maier. Haynes wrote to Lachman, “Women played a much more relevant, central role in depicting and documenting those times, but it also wavered between art photography — like many of their careers did — and photojournalism. And so it was both artistic and aestheticized …. The soft, soiled look of period photography (rather than its cinema) should both soften and soil the emotional content of the story.”
Join us for a special double-feature event with screenings of Carol and Lovers and Lollipops, plus an extended conversation with Todd Haynes.
CAROL Todd Haynes, USA, 2015, DCP, 118m Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s early novel stars Cate Blanchett as the titular Carol, a wealthy suburban wife and mother, and Rooney Mara as an aspiring photographer. They meet by chance, fall in love almost at first sight, and defy the closet of the early 1950s to be together. Working with his longtime cinematographer Ed Lachman and shooting on the Super-16 film he favors for its echoes of the movie history of 20th-century America, Haynes charts subtle shifts of power and desire in images that are alternately luminous and oppressive. Blanchett and Mara are both splendid; the erotic connection between their characters is palpable from beginning to end, as much in its repression as in eagerly claimed moments of expressive freedom. Originally published under a pseudonym, Carol is Highsmith’s most affirmative work; Haynes has more than done justice to the multilayered emotions evoked by the original. A Weinstein Company release. An NYFF53 selection.
LOVERS AND LOLLIPOPS Morris Engel & Ruth Orkin, USA, 1955, 35mm, 82m Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin followed up their paradigm-shifting debut feature Little Fugitive with another film about a young child discovering and challenging the habits of adults. As was true for the directors’ earlier film, the plot of Lovers and Lollipops—a 7-year-old girl goes to escalating lengths to disrupt her widowed mother’s burgeoning romance with a sympathetic old friend—registers less than its constant stream of precisely observed, improbably sustained moments: a visit to the Museum of Modern Art; a bedtime reading that escalates into a mini-confrontation; a trip to the Bronx Zoo. An underappreciated landmark of American independent filmmaking, Lovers and Lollipops is a fleet-footed, stylish document of an older New York, and a crucial period reference for Haynes’s sumptuous new film,Carol.
RUTH ORKIN IN 1947; THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT PHOTOGRAPHED BY ORKIN IN 1939
In 1939, a 17-year old girl living in California decided to embark on a monumental bike trip across the country. The World’s Fair in New York City was her destination. That girl was award winning photojournalist and filmmaker Ruth Orkin (1921-1985).
Orkin grew up in Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s, and at the age of 10, received her first camera, a 39¢ Univex. She began by photographing her friends and teachers at school. Obsessed with traveling after three cross country train trips with her family, she took a job as a teenager at a travel agency in 1937. When a pamphlet for American Youth Hostels arrived in the mail one day at work, offering cheap lodging and cooking facilities for travelers journeying by foot or bicycle, the call for adventure was too great to resist.
PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY ORKIN AND PAGE FROM THE SCRAPBOOK SHE MADE DOCUMENTING THE 1939 BIKE TRIP. ALL CAPTIONS HANDWRITTEN BY ORKIN
At 16, Orkin took her first Youth Hostel trip to San Francisco, and the following year somehow convinced her parents to let her bicycle across the country. Multiple newspapers carried the story of this 17-year old on a cross country tour of U.S. Youth Hostels. While she had actually hitchhiked from LA to Chicago, and then Chicago to New York – equally adventurous and kind of crazy — Orkin later wrote in her book, A Photo Journal, published in 1981, “The bicycling was done while I was sightseeing in each city: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Boston. I also biked the smaller distances between the four eastern cities and while hosteling through four New England states. All in all I biked a total of 2000 miles during those four months!”
The photographs taken on that trip are quite extraordinary and sophisticated for such a young girl, as is the scrapbook she diligently created documenting the trip. That she made this journey unscathed is equally impressive. Her intrepid spirit would bring her back to New York City in 1943 where she began working as a nightclub photographer. She later became a highly sought-after freelance photographer, traveling around the world and contributing to Life, Look, Ladies’ Home Journal and other magazines. Orkin’s candid photographs of actors and directors include Woody Allen, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, among others, in addition to many of the greatest musicians, such as Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Aaron Copland, Jascha Heifitz, and Serge Koussevitzky.
Ruth Orkin’s series “The Cardplayers” was the only sequence that Edward Steichen included in the The Family of Man exhibition that was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955.
A ‘Family of Man’ Reunion
By David Gonzalez
The idea that a photo exhibit could capture “the essential oneness of mankind” seems either arrogant or naïve today. Headlines about conflict and violence remind us daily that no, we can’t all get along. And the rise of ethnic pride, identity politics and access to image-making technology have upended stereotypes. Yet 60 years ago theMuseum of Modern Art set out to do just that when it mounted “The Family of Man,” an ambitious exhibit and book that changed the landscape of modern photography.
The book — the museum’s most popular publication ever with more than 300,000 copies sold — is a foundational volume, familiar to pretty much any photographer working in the latter half of the 20th century. But it also had tremendous popular appeal, so much so that proceeds from the book’s sales endowed an acquisition fund that has allowed MoMA to purchase more than 700 works. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of its publication, the museum has come out with a special hardcover edition of the book that is a facsimile of the original edition.
The book features 503 images by 273 photographers — from the famous to the unknown — all of which were used by Edward Steichen and his assistant, Wayne Miller, to orchestrate a grand vision of humanity, showing people around the world working, playing, fighting and loving. They were placed carefully in the layout, creating a visual and emotional rhythm.
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