American Girl in Italy
Some pictures don’t leave your mind. Most often they are horrible. Not so mine: It is Ruth Orkin’s “American Girl in Italy”, more precisely Mrs. Jinx Allen, now known as Nina Lee Craig, on August 22, 1951, in Piazza della Repubblica in Florence in front of the Cafè Gilli. Nina was an art student Ruth had met in her hotel. The young man on the right stopping his Lambretta is Carlo Marchi. Ruth Orkin was 29, and had just returned from a trip to Israel. The picture is staged, but the men had only been asked not to look at her, the photographer.
This picture was first published in Cosmopolitan 9/52 with an article titled “When you travel alone … tips on money, men, and morals”. The New York Times is said to have called it the world’s second most published picture.
Which is the most published photo in the world is under debate; usually Alberto Korda’s Che Guevara on March 5, 1960, is mentioned (left), or Robert Doisneau’s 1950 “Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville”, staged as well (right, detail).Martin Elliott boasts the most popular picture to be his tennis girl, unbelievable.
Back to Ruth Orkin and Nina Craig. “The two were talking about their shared experiences traveling alone as young single women, when Orkin had the idea to ‘go out and shoot pictures of what it’s really like’”, writes Mary Engel, Ruth’s daughter. “They had a lot of fun.”
The idea for this picture had been in Orkin’s mind for years, ever since she had been old enough to go through the experience herself, but she knew that she needed to have the right crowd, lighting, background, angle, and, above all, the right model in order to recreate the situation (Orkin). Orkin described Allen as a “great natural actress” who participated in staging the scene, walking by a group of men lounging on the corner of the Piazza Della Repubblica, while Orkin ran ahead of Allen and stood in the middle of the intersection to shoot. The photographer says she spoke only to the two men on the motor scooter, asking them to tell the others not to look at the camera. She took one photo of Allen passing the men, and then asked her to back up and repeat the scene, of which she took a second. Orkin’s photo was eventually published in an article, “Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Alone,” in the Cosmopolitan issue of September 1952, after several other magazines [had] rejected it. (John Mratz in http://zonezero.com/magazine/articles/mraz/mraz04.html)
More research, including variants and the negative strip
The official story: http://www.orkinphoto.com/photographs/american-girl/
With more pictures of the “American Girl” in Florence linke this
The oficial picture (550 × 364 Pixel)
Buy an original for $ 1200 …
(Or take Orkin’s Einstein, if you like it cheaper!)
The picture, a bit larger (868 × 558 Pixel) here
Nice Blog entry by Miguel Garcia-Guzman
The story as remembered by the girl in the picture
The story as remembered by Carlo Marchi at 79 (Italian)
Caffè Gilli www.Gilli.It, Piazza della Repubblica 39, Florence, Tel. +39 055 213896
The location: 43° 46' 17.89" N 11° 15' 15.69" E (64 m high), in Google Maps
In Google Earth you can look at the scene in Street View.
I end with this beautiful, slim, no-nonsense Lambretta D 125 (reminding river Lambro). Here you can see and hear one: http://youtu.be/mMBUH8Q4WMQ?t=2m37s
Link to this Blog