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:

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 It's really worth five minutes of your time.


  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 -

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

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


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin