American Girl in Italy

May 20, 2013 in 1951, Am, Art Posters, Pictures, United States



Picture Taken On:
1951


Place:
Streets of Florence, Italy.

Behind the Camera:
Ruth Orkin

Picture Summary:
Ninalee Craig walking down a street surrounded by Italian men. She is wearing an orange shawl.
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In 1951 Ruth Orkin was backpacking around Italy when she ran into another American, Ninalee Craig, doing the same thing at a cheap hotel in Florence, Italy. Talking the two decided to do a photo shoot on the streets of Florence. This, now iconic, shot is just one of many of Ninalee walking around the city while Orkin followed her and took shots Paparazzi style.

Taking the picture

After the two girls decided on doing the photo shoot they walked around the city taking pictures of Ninalee (then going by the name Jinx) doing various things. Craig remembers the two hours the shoot took as “we were literally horsing around.” While walking down a street Orkin noticed that the 6ft tall Craig was getting a lot of looks from the men hanging out there. She had Craig walk up and down the street and then captured this image. The daughter of Orkin who maintains the photographer’s collection after her death also confirms that the photo isn’t staged saying “She told the man on motorcycle to tell the other men not to look at the camera,… But the composition, it just happened. And my mother got it. That’s what she was good at. … She didn’t take loads and loads of photos. She waited for shots.”

When asked if the men were harassing her or threatening her Craig said:

Very few of those men had jobs, Italy was recovering from the war and had really been devastated by it … I can tell you that it wasn’t the intent of any man there to harass me.
That young man [touching himself] is not whistling, by the way; he’s making a happy, yelping sound, And where you see him touching the family jewels, or indicating them, with his hand — well, for a long time that was considered an image people should not look at. That part was airbrushed out for years … But none of those men crossed the line at all.

Ninalee Craig

In 1951 a 23-year-old Ninalee Craig gave up her New York job and booked passage on a third-class ship going to Europe. Taking the name Jinx Allen for six months she toured through France, Spain and Italy by herself. After about six months and spending less than a thousand American dollars Craig returned to her life in New York. She spent some time teaching before meeting an Italian widower and moving to Italy. The marriage didn’t last and so she returned to America where she meet a Canadian and married again moving to Toronto in the 70s. “My life has been wonderful, I’m ready for more” says Craig.

Ruth Orkin

Ruth Orkin was born in 1921, Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of the silent film actress, Mary Ruby. At the age of 10 she took up photography and enjoyed a bit of fame after cycling from LA to New York, taking pictures along the way. She went on to become an American photographer, filmmaker and a late member of the Photo League. She married photographer and filmmaker Morris Engel. Together the made the critically acclaimed movie The Little Fugitive. She produced two photobooks, A A World Through My Window and More Pictures From My Window before dying from Cancer in New York on 16 January 1985.


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