This stunning photograph by Ruth Orkin, of a tall American woman walking down a street in Florence in the early 1950s, is one of the better known photographs of the 20th century. If you’ve never seen it before, you have to agree it’s a work of art, one that generated controversy for the obscene gesture of the man on the left. The photographer, an American named Ruth Orkin, shot the photograph of this American, one Ninalee Craig, one fine day in Florence. The two met each other when they were traveling, separately and on their own, an unusual thing for young women to do at that time.
Orkin thought it would be fine to spend the day shooting pictures of the statuaesque Craig. In addition to the street corner moment, she took pictures of Craig in cafes and in a sports car. (See below.) Some people wondered if the American Girl in Italy photograph was staged. It was not. Orkin did ask Craig to walk down the street a second time, and that the men not look at the camera, but that’s it. The composition, the placement, that happened on its own.
Craig, who is now 83 and lives in Toronto, says she did not feel harassed, as some people have suggested. In an interview this week with the Today Show, she dispelled that thought. “Men who see the picture always ask me: Was I frightened? Did I need to be protected? Was I upset?” Craig said. “They always have a manly concern for me. Women, on the other hand, look at that picture, and the ones who have become my friends will laugh and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful? Aren’t the Italians wonderful? … They make you feel appreciated!’”
In honor of the photograph, which was shot sixty years ago this Monday, the Stephen Bulger Art Gallery in Toronto is having an exhibit. To read all about this iconic image, and to see a terrific slide show of more photographs shot in Florence, click HERE.
As for traveling solo, it’s more acceptable, to be sure. But traveling with a group can be great fun. Solo travelers are of course welcome on all Tour Italy Now tours!
Yours in celebrating Italy,