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© Photo Courtesy of the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography

Beyond the American girl in Italy

by Joy Neumeyer at 12/12/2011 20:00

Ruth Orkin Retrospective, 1939–1981

Until Jan. 29 at The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, 3 Bolotnaya Nab., bldg. 1, m. Kropotkinskaya, lumiere.ru
Open Mon.-Thu. noon-9 pm, Fri. noon-4 am, Sat.-Sun. 11 am-9 pm, closed Mon.

Einstein at Princeton luncheon, 1953

© RIA Novosti. / Sergey Pyatakov

Einstein at Princeton luncheon, 1953

Ruth Orkin’s most famous photograph, “An American Girl in Italy” (1951), features a young woman walking down the street to the leers – and crotch-grabbing–of Florence men. But she also produced iconic images of New York, California and celebrities from Albert Einstein to Woody Allen – all on display in the current Orkin retrospective at the Lumiere Brothers gallery.

Many of the exhibition’s 50 photographs feature New York’s scenery and inhabitants. Orkin, who died of cancer in 1985, was based in the city for several decades, and her photographs span a wide range of its history, from a meeting of World War II veterans in the 1940s to Vietnam protests in the 1970s.

Some of the most memorable photographs are the candid celebrity snapshots Orkin took in California: Marlon Brando playing chess on the set of “Julius Ceasar,” or a strained Lucille Ball waiting for makeup on the set of “I Love Lucy.”

The exhibition also features shots from Orkin’s trips abroad, including the “American Girl” photo. Orkin met Ninalee Craig, the picture’s subject, after arriving in Italy from Israel, and decided to photograph the adventurous 23-year-old walking around town. In a recent interview published on today.msnbc.msn.com, the now 83-year-old Craig countered the image’s longtime status as a symbol of sexual harassment.

“It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!” she said.

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