Ruth Orkin (September 3, 1921 – January 16, 1985)

Ruth Orkin was an award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker. Orkin was the only child of Mary Ruby, a silent-film actress, and Samuel Orkin, a manufacturer of toy boats called Orkin Craft. She grew up in Hollywood in the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. At the age of 10, she received her first camera, a 39 cent Univex. She began by photographing her friends and teachers at school. At 17 years old she took a monumental bicycle trip across the United States from Los Angeles to New York City to see the 1939 World’s Fair, and she photographed along the way.

Orkin moved to New York in 1943, where she worked as a nightclub photographer and shot baby pictures by day to buy her first professional camera. She worked for all the major magazines in 1940s, and also went to Tanglewood during the summers to shoot rehearsals. She ended up with many of the worlds’ greatest musicians of the time including Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Aaron Copland, Jascha Heifitz, Serge Koussevitzky and many others.

In 1951, LIFE magazine sent her to Israel with the Israeli Philharmonic. Orkin then went to Italy, and it was in Florence where she met Nina Lee Craig, an art student and fellow American, who became the subject of “American Girl in Italy.” The photograph was part of a series originally titled “Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone” about what they encountered as women traveling alone in Europe after the war.

On her return to New York, Orkin married the photographer and filmmaker Morris Engel. Together they produced two feature films, including the classic “Little Fugitive” which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. From their New York apartment overlooking Central Park, Orkin photographed marathons, parades, concerts, demonstrations, and the beauty of the changing seasons. These photographs were the subject of two widely acclaimed books, “A World Through My Window” and “More Pictures From My Window.” After a long struggle with cancer, Orkin passed away in her apartment, surrounded by her wonderful legacy of photographs with the view of Central Park outside her window.


1978    A World Through My Window, (Harper and Row)
1981    A Photo Journal, (Viking Press)
1983    More Pictures From My Window, (Rizzoli)
1995    Ruth Orkin, ICP Exhibition
1999    Ruth Orkin, Above and Beyond
2005   Ruth Orkin, American Girl in Italy, The Making of a Classic
2014    Outside-Morris Engel Ruth Orkin, From Street Photography to Filmmaking, (Carlotta)


LITTLE FUGITIVE, 1953 Editor, Co-director and Co-writer
Academy Award Nomination, Best Original Screenplay
Silver Lion, Venice Film Festival
LOVERS AND LOLLIPOPS, 1955 Editor, Co-producer, Co-director and Co-writer


3rd Prize Winner, LIFE Magazine’s Young Photographer’s Contest, 1951
Voted one of Top Ten Women Photographers in the U.S., Professional Photographers of America, 1959
1st Annual Manhattan Cultural Award, Photography, 1980
Certificate of Merit, Municipal Art Society of New York, 1984


School of Visual Arts, New York City, 1976-78
International Center of Photography, New York City, 1980


1921   Born September 3 in Boston, Massachusetts
1931   Receives first camera, 39-cent Univex
1935-39  Attends Beverly Hills High, Eagle Rock High School
1939   Bicycle trip from LA to see 1939 World’s Fair in NYC
1940   Attends LA City College for one year
1941   First messenger girl at MGM Studios
1941   Joins Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps
1943   Moves to New York, works as a nightclub photographer
1945   First assignment from The New York Times to shoot Leonard Bernstein
1945-52  Intensive freelance career for LIFE, Look, This Week, et al.,
1946-50 Photographs classical musicians at Tanglewood Music Festival,
1951  Goes to Israel on press junket with Israeli Philharmonic
In Florence, shoots her classic image,”American Girl in Italy”
1952  Marries Morris Engel in New York City
1953  LITTLE FUGITIVE nominated for Academy Award
1955   Makes second award-winning film, LOVERS AND LOLLIPOPS
1959   Son Andy born, Voted one of Top Ten Women Photographers
1961   Daughter Mary born
1965   Photography in the Fine Arts exhibit, Metropolitan Museum of Art
1974   First retrospective at Nikon House, New York City
1976-77 Instructor, School of Visual Arts
1977   First exhibition at The Witkin Gallery
1978   “A World Through My Window” published, Harper and Row
1981   “A Photo Journal”, Viking Studio Press; photo-autobiography
1983   “More Pictures From My Window” published, Rizzoli
1985    Dies January 16 in New York City

Solo Exhibitions:

1974  Nikon House, New York, NY

1977  Witkin Gallery, New York, NY

Enjay Gallery, Boston

1978  Milwaukee Ctr. of Photography, Milwaukee

Kiva Gallery, Boston

1979  University of Akron, Ohio

Afterimage Gallery, Dallas, Texas

1979  Rizzoli Gallery (thru 1985), NY

1980  Atlanta Gallery of Photography, Atlanta, Georgia

1981  Witkin Gallery, New York, NY

1982  Douglas Elliot Gallery, San Francisco

Rizzoli Gallery, Costa Mesa

1983  Equivalents Gallery, Seattle, Washington

1985  Witkin Gallery, New York, NY

1990  Photo Gallery International, Tokyo, Japan

1994  Witkin Gallery, New York, NY

1995  International Center of Photography, NY

1998  Michael Lord Gallery, Milwaukee, WI

Irving Galleries, Palm Beach, FL

1999  Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY

Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2002  Tom Blau Gallery, London, England

Sag Harbor Picture Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY

2005  Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY

2007  Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Canada

Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, England

Cavalier Galleries, Nantucket, MA

Joie de Livres Gallery, Salisbury, CT

2011  Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Canada

Lumiere Brothers, Moscow, Russia

2014  Duncan Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Fondazione Stelline, Milan, Italy

Group Exhibitions:

Young Photographers, Museum of Modern Art NYC

The Family of Man, Museum of Modern Art, NYC

The World and Its People, The World’s Fair, NYC

Photography in the Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Photographic Crossroads: The Photo League, SUNY, New Paltz

Manhattan Observed, NY Historical Society

American Images, 1945-1980, Barbican Art Gallery, London
Collecting New York: Recent Acquisitions, Museum of City of NY, NYC

New York: The City and Its People, Working People’s Cultural Palace, Bejing, China
Cross Examinations, Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, California

Masters of Starlight, LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Diamonds are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball, NY State Museum, Albany

Master Photograhs from The Photography in the Fine Arts Exhibition, ICP, NYC

The Human Element: B/W Photography, Cal State, Long Beach

A History of Women Photographers, New York Public Library, New York, NYC

Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century, St. Louis Art Museum,
St. Louis, MO

The City That Never Sleeps, Robert Mann Gallery, NYC

Game Face, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
From Within, Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC
Photographs We Know, David Fahey Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Jews of Brooklyn, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY

Celebrating Central Park, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, NYC

At the Crossroads of Desire: A Times Square Centennial, AXA Gallery, NYC
New York! New York!, Photographs Do Not Bend, Dallas, TX
From Within, Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

American Photographers: Fine Prints Exhibition, Photo Gallery Intl., Tokyo, Japan
In Black and White: Works on Paper from the Jewish Museum Collection, NYC
Acting the Part: Photography as Theatre, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Winter in Black and White, Monroe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
The Women of the Photo League, Higher Pictures, NYC

Women Who Shot the 20th Century, Monroe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies, Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Shine, Photographs Do Not Bend, Dallas, TX
The Heartbeat of Fashion, International Center of Photography, NYC
Beyond Color, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NYC
New York in the 40s, Tulsa Art Center, Atlanta, GA
Shout Freedom, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH

Kid Kulture, Westport Arts Center, Westport, CT
Revelations, Robert Anderson Gallery, NYC
40 Exceptional Photographs, Afterimage Gallery, Dallas, TX
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League 1936-1951, Jewish Museum, NYC

The Howard Greenberg Gallery, Elysse Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland
Harlem in the City Festival, City College, New York

Eye Wonder: Women Photographers in the Bank of America Collection, Cer
Modern, Ankara, Turkey

Everyday Beauty, National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Photo League Exhibition, Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection, Brooklyn Museum, NYC
Staff Picks Vll, Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York, Gracie Mansion, NYC
1947, Simone De Beauvoir in America, Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, NYC
The Space Between, Julie Saul Gallery, NYC
Your Mirror: Portraits from the ICP Collection, ICP, NYC


PROOF: Photography in the Age of the Contact Sheet, Cleveland Art Museum, Cleveland, OH

The City, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC