Ruth Orkin

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Ruth Orkin
Born Ruth Orkin
(1921-09-03)September 3, 1921
Boston, Massachusetts
Died January 16, 1985(1985-01-16) (aged 63)
New York City
Nationality American
Education Photojournalism at Los Angeles City College
Known for Photography, filmmaking
Notable work American Girl in Italy (1951), Little Fugitive (1952), Lovers and Lollipops (1955)
Spouse(s) Morris Engel
Website Ruth Orkin Photo Archive

Ruth Orkin (September 3, 1921 – January 16, 1985) was an American photographer and filmmaker.


Orkin grew up in Hollywood where her mother was a silent-film actress.[1] She grew up photographing and in 1939, she studied photojournalism at the Los Angeles City College. In 1943, she served in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps during World War II.[2]

Orkin moved to New York City in 1943 and began working as a nightclub photographer. She later became a successful freelance photographer, traveling all over the world and contributing to Life, Look, Ladies' Home Journal and other periodicals. In November 1948 she sailed from New York on the ocean liner SS Argentina to film and write about its passengers for Coronet magazine.[3]

Orkin attended Photo League events but didn't become a member after they were blacklisted in 1947.[1] In 1952 Orkin married photographer, filmmaker and fellow Photo League member Morris Engel. Orkin worked with Engel as an editor and co-director on several independent feature films.[4]

Orkin is perhaps best known for her photograph, American Girl in Italy, taken in 1951. The subject of the now-iconic photograph was the 23-year-old Ninalee Craig (known at that time as Jinx Allen). The photograph was conceived inadvertently when Orkin noticed the men ogling Allen as she walked down the street. Orkin asked Allen to walk down the street again, to be sure she had the shot.[5][6][7]

In the 1970s, Orkin taught photography at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography. She died of cancer in her Manhattan apartment at age 63.

Bibliography, filmography[edit]


  • A World Through My Window, Harper and Row, 1978
  • A Photo Journal, The Viking Press, 1981
  • More Pictures from My Window, Rizzoli, 1983


  • The Little Fugitive, 1953
    • Editor, Co-director and Co-writer
    • Academy Award Nomination, Best Original Screenplay
    • Silver Lion, Venice Film Festival


  1. ^ a b Ruth Orkin bio at The Jewish Museum
  2. ^ Ruth Orkin Photo Archive Biography
  3. ^ Vinson, Bill; Casey, Ginger Quering. "S.S. Argentina Memories & Photos Page 1". Welcome Aboard Moore-McCormack Lines. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  4. ^ Professional Women Photographers: 30 By 30: Patt Blue / Ruth Orkin
  5. ^ Coffey, LT (August 18, 2011). "At 83, subject of 'American Girl in Italy' photo speaks out". New York: MSNBC. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ Dunlap, DW (December 6, 2010). "Newfound colors for a portrait of New York". Lens. New York: The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ Krumboltz, M (August 19, 2011). "American girl in Italy: 60 years later". The Lookout. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 

External links[edit]