A new exhibition and book celebrate the extraordinary legacy of American photographer Ruth Orkin, one of the most influential women photographers of the twentieth century.
Ruth Orkin is a legend of street photography – her atmospheric pictures taken in cities such as Florence, New York, and London still shape the image of these metropolises today. But Orkin’s specialty not only encompassed the urban but also the personal. This is evident in her unique eye that enabled her street scenes to consistently offer penetrating insights into the time and personality of her subjects. And it likewise shows in her fantastic portraits of celebrities such as Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, and Lauren Bacall. These inimitable images seemingly combine snapshot and pose to present the star in his or her role and at the same time as an autonomous individual. Ruth Orkin: A Photo Spirit, published by HATJE CANTZ on the occasion of the photographer’s 100th birthday, this new illustrated book celebrates Orkin’s life and work with an equally extensive and fascinating overview of this exceptional artist’s oeuvre.
The Expressions of Life exhibition is an emotional, inspiring, and romantic chronicle of the pioneering photographer and filmmaker Ruth Orkin. Featuring landmark photographs from her work across Hollywood, New York City, Israel, and Italy, the exhibition celebrates Orkin’s centennial and showcases her as a master of intimacy, warmth, and boldness behind the camera.
From photographs of her monumental cross country bicycle trip at age 17 and behind-the-scenes of MGM Studios as the first “messenger girl” in 1941 to European adventures and spontaneous, cinematic New York City moments – Expressions of Life spotlights some of her most renowned photographs: American Girl in Italy (1951), Bernstein in Green Room, Carnegie Hall, NYC, (1950), and Einstein at Princeton luncheon, NJ (1953), among others.
“Ruth Orkin: Expressions of Life” is on view at Fotografiska- New York through December 5, 2021.
About the Author
Ruth Orkin was an award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker, born in Boston. She grew up in Hollywood in the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s, and at the age of ten received her first camera, a 39 cent Univex.
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, photographing along the way. She briefly attended Los Angeles City College to pursue photojournalism but decided to instead become the first messenger at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios in 1941.
In 1943, Orkin moved to New York City to pursue a career as a photographer, working mostly in nightclubs until she received her first assignment from The New York Times to photograph Leonard Bernstein in 1945. Orkin honed her skills in portraiture by spending the summer of 1946 documenting the Tanglewood Music Festival. Later that year, LOOK published her first major photo essay, Jimmy, the Storyteller. She sent the series to Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947, and he subsequently included her in every group photography show at the museum until his retirement, including the great 1955 exhibition, The Family of Man.
Ruth Orkin: Expressions of Life
– Fotografiska, New York, September–November 2021
– F3 – Freiraum für Fotografie, Berlin, October 2021–January 2022
– Museo Civico Bassano (Italy), Januar 2022
– Kultur Kutxa Artegunea, San Sebastian (Spain), Summer 2022
– Centro Cultural de Cascais (Portugal), Fall 2022