American Girl in Italy

Ruth Orkin American

Not on view

Although this photograph appears to be a street scene caught on the fly-an instance of what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the "decisive moment"-it was actually staged for the camera by Orkin and her model. "The idea for this picture had been in my mind for years, ever since I had been old enough to go through the experience myself," Orkin later wrote. While traveling alone in Italy, she met the young woman in the photograph at a hotel in Florence and together they set out to reenact scenes from their experiences as lone travelers. "We were having a hilarious time when this corner of the Piazza della Repubblica suddenly loomed on our horizon," the photographer recalled. "Here was the perfect setting I had been waiting for all these years…. And here I was, camera in hand, with the ideal model! All those fellows were positioned perfectly, there was no distracting sun, the background was harmonious, and the intersection was not jammed with traffic, which allowed me to stand in the middle of it for a moment." The picture, with its eloquent blend of realism and theatricality, was later published in Cosmopolitan magazine as part of the story "Don't Be Afraid to Travel Alone."

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