Ruth Orkin’s ‘American Girl in Italy’ – an iconic image with a Toronto connection

One of photography’s most recognizable images, American Girl in Italy (1951), is the work of Boston-born <ABOVE – Ruth Orkin (1921-85)>.  The famous picture shows a young woman walking past a lineup of sidewalk romeos in Florence.  The woman, then 23, is NINALEE CRAIG.  She was born in the US and now lives in TORONTO.  In 1951, Ms. Craig quit her job in New York, boarded a ship bound for Europe, and spent six months traveling in France, Spain and Italy.  In a dollar-a-day hotel by the Arno River, she met another adventurer – film maker and photographer, Ruth Orkin.  The two of them went out one morning and shot pictures of what it was like to be a young, single woman traveling abroad.

The most famous of those photographs, was created in only two takes.  Ms. Craig walked past the whistling lineup twice, the reactions were spontaneous and undirected, and the image became a classic.  Ms. Craig spent a Saturday afternoon at STEPHEN BULGER PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERY, (wearing the orange-coloured shawl in the picture), signing books and cards.  She said “this is a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time.  It’s not a symbol of harassment.”


2 thoughts on “Ruth Orkin’s ‘American Girl in Italy’ – an iconic image with a Toronto connection

  1. I just saw a magazine with the picture of american girl in italy I was so in love with it and just checked on line where it came from and the story behind it I would so love to get a copy of this print My grandparents are from italy and just spent a few weeks there I just love everything about it. I so enjoyed the whole story behind this picture. I hope you can help me find a print thanking you in advance Anne Marie

  2. Hello Anne Marie. To get a print, you can always contact Stephen Bulger at Stephen Bulger Gallery. Or if you’d rather not pay for a gelatin silver print, then look for a photography book on the work of Ruth Orkin. It’s bound to be in there.

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