Monday, September 05, 2011

Stephen Bulger Photograhy - American Girl in Italy / George Zimbel's Children Photos

Intrigued by articles in the newspapers marking the 60th anniversary of Ruth Orkin's famous photo "An American Girl In Italy", we set off to the Stephen Bulger Gallery to catch the final day of a retrospective of the photos that she took for this shoot.

Now married and living in Toronto, the subject for this iconic photo, Ninalee "Jinx" Allen Craig was just a fellow artist who Ruth happened to meet and decided to collaborate with in a series of impromptu photos.  Interviews given by Ninalee Craig clarified misconceptions that this photo must have been pre-planned and staged, given the number of delicious points of interest contained in it.  Craig indicated that Ruth had turned and snapped a first photo as she walked down this street. She asked Ninalee to repeat the walk a second time so she could get another shot at a better angle.  This statement is validated by the contact sheet from the shoot, which was also on display at Stephen Bulger Gallery.  The contact sheet clearly shows the two shots and it was very interesting to compare them.

While it was fascinating to see this famous photo up close, it was even more intriguing to see the other lesser known photos taken on the same roll of film.

Ruth and Ninalee seemed to have a great time roaming all through Florence, documenting what it was like to be a young single woman traveling alone in Italy.  This exhibit gave great insight into what an amazing time these two women must have had together.  I wonder if they realized at the time that they would make history with their endeavours.

As the Ruth Orkin exhibit was closing, the next featured exhibit of George Zimbel's collection of "Photographs of Children" was just opening.  Zimbel seems to have a way of interacting with children that makes them feel natural and at ease.

His photos show them unselfconsciously at play, capturing all their sweetness, mischeviousness and "joie de vivre", without making them seem posed or precocious.

Two photos with a similar theme caught my attention. Each one shows little boys playing with guns.  The first one taken in Montreal shows two giggling boys, probably playing cops and robbers with a toy plastic gun.  The photo exudes innocence boisterous fun.  In contrast the second photo, taken in Bronx New York, the boy is holding a very big authentic looking sawed-off shotgun in a sketchy looking neighbourhood.  The menacing dangerous vibe of this picture is accentuated when compared to the other one.

George Zimbel is most known for taking the photos of Marilyn Monroe, who was standing on top of a subway grate in the white dress while filming the movie "The Seven Year Itch".  There is a great article on his website where he describes his memories of that shoot.

Viewing all these beautiful black and white photos has inspired us to learn how to take some of our own. Contrast, lighting, shadows, texture, shapes and patterns all seem important in spotting a good composition for a black and white photo.  Should be fun to try.

Stephen Bulger Gallery
1026 Queen St West

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