American Girl in Italy, 1951 © Ruth Orkin Photo Archive

About the Artist

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 is curated by María Sprowls Cervantes of Fotografiska New York with the generous support of Mary Engel, Director of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive.

Richie Eating Cotton Candy, Little Fugitive, Coney Island, NYC, 1953 © Ruth Orkin Photo Archive
Sixth Avenue, NYC, 1949 © Ruth Orkin Photo Archive