Friday, 23 April 2010

Sarah, and Serendipity

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Mother and Baby 1949 by Ruth Orkin

Sarah weighs into the crying baby debate today in The Times:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/article7105419.ece

Even when I am just putting up a link, I like to find a good photograph to go with it. I am keenly aware of the importance of offering you a little visual pleasure, especially at the moment, when our eyeballs are seared by wall-to-wall politicians. So off I wandered on The Google to find a nice illustration. Most modern photographs of babies are simply ghastly, it turns out, banal and obvious and glutinously sentimental. It might sound like a rather awful thing to say, but babies as a generic are not that interesting. What are lovely are photographs of babies one knows, because they are invested with love and intimacy and context.

Anyway (there is a point to this story), I turned away from the gloopy baby pictures and typed in 'vintage photograph of mother and child' to see if I could find something more interesting. And that led me to a website showing the photographs of Ruth Orkin. I collect photographs, and have some passing knowledge of it, but I had never heard of her.

She turned out to be rather brilliant. I found photographs like this:

Stopping Traffic, Florence, 1951 by Ruth Orkin

And this:

Tirza on Sinks by Ruth Orkin

And this:

Man in Rain, New York City by Ruth Orkin  1952

And this:

Photograph by Ruth Orkin

(Sorry they are rather tiny; they come out that way and if I blow them up they lose focus.)

Here is where the serendipity part comes in. As I browsed through the archives, I found this photograph:

American tourists in Rome by Ruth Orkin

I bought this as a postcard years ago. I remember absolutely loving it because I hoped it would be exactly what I would be like when I was an old lady, running off to Rome with one of my girlfriends. I too would wear a hat and an elegant frock and drink my drink through a straw. And today, because Sarah wrote an article about babies, and I needed to find a good photograph to illustrate it, I finally stumbled upon the author of my postcard. I don't know why I did not just turn the card over and look for the credit, but there are many things I do or do not do which have  no explanation. But now I do know, and I could not be more pleased. Ruth Orkin, I salute you.

To see more of her photographs in their full glory, go to http://www.orkinphoto.com/index.php. It's really worth five minutes of your time.

3 comments:

  1. I love the way that this blog takes on such unexpected turns and reveals things that brighten up my day. I've bookmarked the archive so I can look through it at my leisure.

    I don't know if you've heard of Edward Chambre Hardman but I thought you might like a mooch around another photographic archive - http://www.mersey-gateway.org/chambrehardman/

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  2. Thanks for the intro to Ruth Orkin. Like it.

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  3. These photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing that link with us.

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