Ruth Orkin Women Ausstellung Exhibition Tour

Ruth Orkin


8. December 2023 18. February 2024

Following the successful show Ruth Orkin – A Photo Spirit in 2021, f³ – freiraum für fotografie now presents newly discovered and previously unpublished photographs by American photographer Ruth Orkin.

Ruth Orkin was one of the professional women photographers of the 1940s and 1950s. Although she published in numerous newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Life, and Look, and her photographs were part of the legendary exhibition The Family of Man at MoMA, her work, which rivals that of the great photographers of her time, is still little known internationally. One of her most important photographs is »American Girl in Italy« from 1951, which became a symbol of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The street scene shows a young woman striding through a line of whistling men.

Tracing the photographer’s footsteps, curator and publicist Nadine Barth (@barthouseprojects) and Katharina Mouratidi, Artistic Director f³ – freiraum für fotografie, came across a largely unpublished, multi-layered and unique body of work that reveals a little-known side of Ruth Orkin: That of a sensitive, interested, witty, and funny chronicler of American women of the 1940s and 1950s.

With biting humor, the photographer devised reportages such as »Who Works Harder?«, which compares the life of a housewife and mother with that of a career woman, documented women in beauty salons, at cocktail parties, at dog shows and on the film set in Hollywood. In the footage we encounter Lauren Bacall, Jane Russell, Joan Taylor, and Doris Day, but also waitresses, stewardesses, soldiers, and best friends.

What Ruth Orkin’s subtle but radically subversive shots capture are images of women on the move who are beginning to shed the conventions imposed on them and go their own way: self-confident, stylish, smart and ahead of their time.

Accompanying the exhibition is the photo book Ruth Orkin – Women bei Hatje Cantz. It is available at f³ – freiraum für fotografie. Edited by Nadine Barth and Katharina Mouratidi. 2023, 144 pages, 100 illustrations, hardcover 26,5 x 26,5 cm, 38 €.

In cooperation with Hatje Cantz.

All accompanying events can be found here.

Image: Lauren Bacall, St. Regis Hotel, New York, 1950 © Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021.