Ruth Orkin Photo Archive

For all inquiries regarding reproduction, licensing rights, exhibitions, print sales, and information about the archive, please contact:

Mary Engel
Director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive
[email protected]

Mary and Ruth, NYC, 1971

What Are The Goals of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive?

The Ruth Orkin Photo Archive has been handled exclusively by her daughter, Mary Engel since Ruth’s death at the age of 63 in 1985. It then became the Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, after her father Morris’ death in 2005. Mary’s mission is to keep the photos in the public eye so people can appreciate their lifetime of photography and film! There are many photos that have not been seen that Mary is discovering, and will continue to post on the websites, and on Facebook and Instagram. 

What Are The Plans For Ruth’s Centennial in 2021?

Mary is planning many events for Ruth Orkin’s centennial in 2021. Hopefully, there will be a major touring exhibition that will travel to museums  across the United States, and a new retrospective book. Her last monograph was published in 1981, “A Photo Journal.”

How Do I Get Permission To Reproduce Ruth Orkin Photographs In A Book, Blog, Newspaper, Magazine Or Catalog?

Mary Engel owns the copyright to all Ruth Orkin photographs.  Any request must be put in writing and approved by Mary Engel. Title of photograph and copyright Ruth Orkin must accompany all usage. 

Do You Loan Photographs For Museum Or Gallery Exhibitions?

Yes, but please provide the archive with the answers to the questions below:


What is the photo or photos you would like to include?
What is the title of the exhibition?
How many other photographers will be included?
Do you need to borrow the photo, or is it already in the museum’s collection?
What is the location of the museum?
What is the length of the exhibition?
Are there additional locations?
Will there be an exhibition catalog?
Do you want a license for educational usage on the museum’s website?
Is there any other usage requested? 

What Are The Primary Formats Of Ruth Orkin’s Photographs?

There are several categories of Ruth Orkin’s photographs available, please see below for the descriptions of each type. If you have a question about a photo you are considering purchasing, or a print you currently own, please take a photo of it and send to Mary Engel, and she will try to help identify it.

(All print sales are for display purposes only, all rights reserved.)

Signatures and Stamps:

Ruth Orkin’s vintage prints are marked in different ways, and it is not consistent.  Sometimes they are signed, titled and include an address stamp. Sometimes they only have a stamp, or are titled in Ruth’s hand, or don’t include any writing.  All vintage prints are authenticated by Mary Engel. There is also a lifetime stamp for unmarked photos that are in the archive collection. 


Vintage prints were printed around the time they were taken, and are mostly smaller, and mounted flush on board. Generally they are 8 x 10, or 11 x 14. 


Modern signed lifetime prints are newer silver gelatin exhibition prints made in the 70’s and 80s that were for exhibition, and are generally 11 x 14 and 16 x 20’s. These are all signed.


Posthumous prints are silver gelatin prints made from the original negative. They include a blind embossed signature stamp on the front, and are titled and signed on the back by Mary Engel who is the photographer’s daughter, and director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive. These are not editioned.

Mary Engel

Mary Engel is an award winning filmmaker, the director of the Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, and the founder and president of the American Photography Archives Group.

Engel has been the director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive since its inception in 1985. Engel is responsible for all aspects of running the archiving including sales, licensing, marketing, legal issues, and many other areas. She works with photography galleries, museums and auction houses throughout the United States and abroad. She has published four catalogs of photography.

Engel’s first film “Ruth Orkin: Frames of Life” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996, and went on to screen at many other festivals. The film was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the “Outstanding Documentaries of 1996.” Her film “Morris Engel: The Independent” premiered on Turner Classic Movies in 2009. Engel is a contributing producer on the feature length documentary, “Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York” 2011.

She has been published in The New York Times, the American Society of Media Photographers magazine, Photo District News and Film Comment. She has lectured at Harvard University, New York University, Brooklyn Historical Society, St. Louis Art Museum, Central Park Conservancy, and has appeared at the Avon Theater, (Stamford, CT), Loews Jersey (Jersey City, NJ) Film Forum (New York, NY) and the Egyptian Theater (Park City, Utah) and others.


Memories of Leonard Bernstein from Ruth Orkin’s memorial in 1985.

“When Lenny spoke at my mom’s memorial”

My mom, the photographer Ruth Orkin, knew Bernstein from one of her earliest assignments when she was hired to take a photo of him with the New York City Symphony. She really got to know him when she went up to Tanglewood and shot the rehearsals all summer. They became friends, and before she passed away in 1985, he offered to write the text for a book of all the photos. After she died, I asked if he would speak at her memorial, and he accepted. It all came together beautifully.

He was attending opening night of the Metropolitan Opera with Franco Zeffirelli, and the memorial was at the Ethical Culture Society a block away. He seemed to slip in with his tux and tails and caused quite a stir when people recognized him. I spoke briefly, and then introduced him. He made some personal remarks about her, and also said a few words in Hebrew. It was short, but very meaningful, and I will be forever grateful and she would have loved it. To top it off, Isaac Stern also spoke and played some Bach for Ruth.

Mary Engel, New York, NY, United States


Please contact Mary Engel, Director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive for more information.

Email: [email protected]