Photos of the past tap into our interest of storytelling, imagining what reality was like at that exact moment when the snap was taken.
And one story that is definitely worth telling is that of photojournalist Ruth Orkin, whose black-and-white pictures of the past will remain interesting, relevant and beautiful for decades to come.
The award-winning photographer started her life in 1921, growing up as an only child in Hollywood. Although she received her first camera at ten years old, she really put her skills to the test seven years later on a bicycle trip across the USA.
Cycling from LA to New York City, she captured everything she could on camera, developing her talent as a reportage photographer, focusing more on people and scenes than landscapes.
In the years that followed, she went from being a nightclub photographer to working on major magazines.
When she was 30, she met Nina Lee Craig in Florence, Italy. That is where she created her American Girl In Italy image, as part of her “Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone” series about young ladies travelling solo in Europe during post-war times.
This became one of her most well-known images, featuring Nina walking past several men of varying ages in the historic city of Florence, all of whom couldn’t take their eyes off the subject.
Ruth’s daughter Mary Engel claims the photographer “captured [Italy’s] essence” with the series, “as she did with most things”.
Her skills weren’t limited to taking photos, however, as she also produced two films with her husband Morris Engel. One of these, called Little Fugitive, was nominated for an Oscar in 1953.
It was also around this time that she began to be part of group exhibitions, which took place in New York, California, and even China.
Her solo exhibits came later in the ‘70s, with the photojournalist hosting displays at galleries all around the USA, as well as Japan, London, Canada, Russia and Italy.
Always striving to do more, she became an instructor in photography at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography, and her images have been included in a variety of books.
Orkin won several awards during her career, including the first annual Manhattan Cultural Award for photography in 1980, just five years before her death.
In the end, she lost her battle with cancer in 1985 in the Central Park apartment where she had shot many demonstrations, marathons, parades, concerts, shows and everyday events over the years.
Born over 100 years ago, Ruth’s legacy continues to live on in her innovative and progressive pieces of work. Her images can still be purchased from the original negatives, including her famous photograph of the renowned physicist Albert Einstein in fits of laughter.
It wasn’t just Einstein she managed to capture during her career though, as her pictures of Marlon Brando, Alfred Hitchcock, Judy Holiday, Orson Welles and Woody Allen will also go down in history.