Ruth Orkin


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(1921–85). Photographer and filmmaker. Born in Boston, she was the daughter of silent film actress Mary Ruby and grew up in Hollywood. She began taking photographs as a child and was developing her own film by the time she was twelve. She served briefly in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps in 1943. In 1944 she moved permanently to New York and soon worked as a freelance photographer for many magazines, including Life, Look, and Ladies' Home Journal. In 1952 she married New York–born photographer Morris Engel (1918–2005), who shared her interest in recording everyday life. Together they co-directed Little Fugitive (with Ray Ashley; 1953), a prize-winning predecessor of New Wave cinema, and Lovers and Lollipops (1955). Orkin's most celebrated image, “An American Girl in Italy” (1951) shows a young woman confidently striding past the stares and taunts of a dozen men in Florence. Otherwise, Orkin remains particularly noted for lyrical photographs of New York and its inhabitants, observed with sympathy and wit. She particularly enjoyed photographing from windows of her apartments, especially the one where she lived from 1955, facing Central Park. In later years she frequently used color for her views. A 1977 photograph of a hot-air balloon floating in the mist above the park exemplifies her control of subtle chromatic effects. A Photo Journal: Ruth Orkin (1981) documents her career. She also published A World Through My Window (1978) and More Pictures from My Window (1983).

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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