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Sunday, July 5, 2020


Orkin’s photo of Ninalee Craig in Florence, Italy, 1951
The story goes two twenty-something American women meet by chance at the American Express counter in Florence, Italy.  It’s 1951, when U.S. women of any age were considered progressive when travelling alone.
         One woman is photographer Ruth Orkin and the other her model, a schoolteacher on a lark, Ninalee Craig (aka Jinx Allen).
Jinx Allen, a.k.a Ninalee Craig
The bond is friendly and instant.  Orkin, a freelance photographer with connections to New York based magazines, suggested she photograph Jinx as an “American Girl in Italy, Florence” photo essay.
         At 10 am the next day, the duo hits the streets on their impromptu photo-shoot.  They part ways the next day only to find themselves again by chance in Venice and later in life in America.  They stay friends until Orkin does of cancer in 1985.
Ruth Orkin
Orkin’s Florence photo op is a huge success hit and one photo (posted above) became iconic.  Interviewed when Jinx was 89 years old, she insisted she was never afraid of the men leering at her.  She alluded to joyfully being Beatrice akin to the famous painting walking the streets of Florence about to be discovered by Dante.
         Craig’s description of the day shoot was not a day of harassment but of fun.  Zealots borrowing on the truth have given the image an alternative “poster child” raison d’etre for the “Me, too movement.”  Harassment is wrong and so is stealing from the truth.    
         This blog has discovered another “day shoot” that was made into a book titled “A Day with Picasso” by Billy Kluver [MIT Press], which features 24 photographs by Jean Cocteau taken on one summer day in Paris 1916.  The effort recreated a day in the life of Picasso and friends, including the artist Modigliani.
         Both one-day photo essays are fascinating glimpses into the past.
Photo by Jean Cocteau of (left to right) Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Andre Salmon, Paris, 1916.
Beatrice (white) about to walk by Dante.  A 1883 painting by Henry Holiday.

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