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Hundred Heroines : Ruth Orkin


UK photography charity Hundred Heroines unveils a catalogue of events celebrating  photographer Ruth Orkin.

One of the most critically acclaimed photographers and filmmakers of the mid to late 20th century, Ruth Orkin (1921 – 1985, USA) grew up in Hollywood, the daughter of a silent film actress. Self-taught, like her contemporaries Berenice Abbott and Helen Levitt, she began taking photographs at the age of 17 during a bicycle trip from Los Angeles to New York City. Fearless and feisty, she settled in New York in 1943 and embarked upon an illustrious career, photographing celebrities, musicians, and the lives of people she met during her lifelong travels. Her scenes of city activity – while dated by the iconic visual hallmarks of their era are saturated by an aura of vitality and wonder.

Equally, the bustle of this urban world highlights turbulence and uncertainty. One of her favourite angles of photographing New York comes from looking outside her window, small groups of sailors marching down the street or market stalls salesmen dusting their fruits. Orkin captures the city on the move, forever evolving, restless. Orkin’s photographs also exemplify the concept of the ‘inner child’ – a typically hidden aspect of personality characterized by playfulness and spontaneity, partially weathered by the anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.

For Orkin, the ‘inner child’ was not an abstract notion but a lens through which to view her surroundings.

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