Ruth Orkin (1921-1985, USA) - American Girl in Florence, Italy, 1951
On August 22, 1951, on the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, Ruth Orkin, a 29 year old aspiring photojournalist, took the photograph that made her famous. The image of a young woman walking through a thicket of men was considered risqué in its time but since then it has become one of the most famous pictures taken.The image is such a perfect and classical composition that some critics to question whether or not the scene was staged. Orkin never hid the fact that the shot was not entirely spontaneous, and spoke of having directed some minor elements of the scene. Whether “real” or not, the image remains an icon of street photography to this day.
In Florence Orkin had met Ninalee “Jinx” Allen Craig, an art student and fellow American who became the model for a series Orkin originally titled Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone, based on their joint experience as women travelling alone in Europe in the 1950s. Orkin photographed Craig shopping in the markets, crossing traffic, riding a carriage and flirting at a cafe. By chance the two came upon the now famous pack of men. Orkin turned around and photographed Craig behind her. “I clutched my shawl to me because that sheaths the body,” says Craig. “It was my protection, my shield. I was walking through a sea of men.” Craig today admits, “I was enjoying every minute of it. They were Italian and I love Italians.” Orkin asked Craig to walk through again, and with that she captured the famous image. It took only two exposures. The photograph was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1952 and it was later it was picked up by Kodak to encourage young photographers.