This section honors Ruth Orkin’s Centennial year. She was born September 3, 1921! There will be solo shows, group shows and a new book!
WALL STREET JOURNAL- Holiday Gift Books 2021: By William Meyers 11/16/21
“Her work is distinguished by its empathy; her pictures of children being children are magnificent”.
RUTH ORKIN: A PHOTO SPIRIT – By Mary Engel, Editor- Hatje Cantz
The picture on the back of the jacket of “Ruth Orkin: A Photo Spirit” is from Orkin’s “American Girl in Italy” essay, the attractive art student being ogled by a gaggle of men on a street in Florence; 17 other pictures from the series, reproduced inside, testify to Orkin’s abilities as a storyteller. One of the most successful midcentury female photojournalists, Orkin (1921-1985) shot celebrities (Joan Crawford, Albert Einstein, Lauren Bacall, Marlon Brando), street scenes (“Women With Protest Posters,” “V-E Day, Times Square,” “Couple at Soda Stand”), magazine cover photos and events like the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Her work is distinguished by its empathy; her pictures of children being children are magnificent.
NEW YORK TIMES – What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries Right Now – Nov. 17, 2021
Then cross Manhattan for a survey of Ruth Orkin’s photographs, including her most famous, “An American Girl in Italy,” at Fotografiska.RUTH ORKIN – EXPRESSIONS OF LIFE
Ruth Orkin’s most famous picture was staged in Florence. Learning from a young American student how Italian men ogled and catcalled women, Orkin posed her in a picturesque but slightly seedy setting, looking straight ahead with an uncomfortable expression as she passed a gantlet of male bystanders. Taken in 1951, the picture offers a feminist rejoinder to a celebrated Richard Avedon image made four years earlier, of a Dior fashion model standing in Paris’s decorous Place de la Concorde, as three appreciative but respectful young men stride by.
Marking the centenary of Orkin’s birth, “Expressions of Life” documents the achievement of a trailblazing female photographer who, with her husband, Morris Engel, also made a charming movie, “Little Fugitive,” that foreshadowed the French New Wave. (A newly published monograph, Ruth Orkin: A Photo Spirit, offers a fuller survey of her work.)
Orkin photographed celebrities, young lovers, fellow New Yorkers and inhabitants of the new state of Israel. But where she truly excelled was in her shots of children. Indeed, only Helen Levitt rivals her in that category. This exhibition features a delightful sequence, also from 1952, of three children playing cards, which was the only photographic group in the landmark “Family of Man” show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955.
In her best portraits, Orkin captured the child in adults as well. Along with a well known picture of a guffawing Albert Einstein, don’t miss a marvelous view of the photographer Robert Capa that reveals his irresistible boyish charm. ARTHUR LUBOW
FOTOGRAFISKA – Wall text for RUTH ORKIN – EXPRESSIONS OF LIFE
“When I was a little girl, my mother Ruth was larger than life. She told me to call her Ruth at a young age, so she could hear me in a crowd. She had a great personality, with lots of charisma, and people always said she had chutzpah. She was warm, but she could be tough and strong too. In my eyes, she had it all.”
Ruth Orkin (1921-1985) ventured into photography having received her first camera at the age of ten. As a middle school student she successfully skipped chemistry class in favor of mastering the dark room, and fell in love with the alchemy of photography.
A soundscape emanates from Orkin’s work, rising from the print to reach our inner ear. The sounds of children at play, the calm moments in a bustling train station, the turning of a bike wheel, a crowd in protest, the kisses exchanged by couples in dark bars and public benches. Orkin’s photographs are playful and jovial, giving the impression of lightheartedness, but her approach to her subjects affirm the depth of her artistic practice. She sought to capture life at its fullest, exploring the melody and motion of human breath and the songs that are born from it. Gestures and human expressions are ever present in her photographs. Her work reveals the extraordinary opera of seemingly ordinary life.
Orkin’s photographic practice and filmmaking stemmed from compassionate curiosity and bravery. She considered her stint as a messenger at MGM Studios in 1941 the first step to becoming a filmmaker. She left her post after her disappointment in the union’s discriminatory practice that barred women from joining it. Orkin experienced gender inequality in the world of photography as well. She was disheartened by the unequal pay between men and women for the same assignments, and always wondered if grants and fellowships would have been granted to her if she had been a man. Despite it all, Orkin continued to choose photography. She admired photographers such as Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark. “Today, I am amazed by all the brave women photographers who go right into the thick of battle or into other dangerous situations”, she wrote in her biography.
Ruth Orkin: Expressions of Life is a celebration of her centennial, featuring # photographs including some of her most renowned images: American Girl in Italy (1951), Bernstein in Green Room, Carnegie Hall, NYC, (1950), and Einstein at Princeton luncheon, NJ, (1953), among others. A selection of photographs showing her passion for music and cinema are included as well.
Orkin created images that appear to be private moments, and lends her subjects and landscapes a Hollywood-style charm. Her documentation of the crowds of children in the midst of a parade, of impatient New Yorkers about to cross 6th avenue, and stylish women waiting for their trains at Penn Station are only some examples shown here of her characteristic visual storytelling, akin to cinematography. She often shot in series and sequences, as if she was shooting a film.
Expressions of Life presents Orkin as an invisible observer with a masterful ability to capture the cinematic light on the streets of New York. She shows us the subtle moment of a hand reaching tenderly out to caress a lover’s back during a day at the beach,, the sparkling laughter of children engaged in a card game, a stylishly dressed man waiting for his train. Orkin’s democratic photographic instinct, impregnated with sweetness and inquisitiveness, give room to the visual melodies and rhythms that we can hear in each of her images.
In her later years, she photographed spectacular views from a window of her apartment on Central Park West, eternally capturing the spirit of the city that was her home. Ruth Orkin’s photographs are an ode to unseen moments and pockets of intense life, translating their lyric movement to us through the viewfinder of her camera.
This exhibition is curated by María Sprowls Cervantes of Fotografiska New York with the generous support of Mary Engel, Director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive.