Fotografiska NYC

Imagine going to an art museum and being able to walk around with a glass of wine and no one is worried about it spilling, or damaging the art. Sound too good to be true, well it is not. It is Fotografiska NY (located at 281 Park Avenue South at 22nd St.) that opened in the Flatiron district in December 2019. It is in a beautiful landmark Renaissance style 45,000 square foot building that used to be the Children’s Aid Society. The scale of the lobby and restaurant on the 2nd floor is amazing, especially the 6th floor event space that includes a vaulted ceiling and beautiful upholstered velvet chairs and couches that are in the member’s lounge, and double for a seating area for larger events.

Fotografiska founded by Jan and Per Broman originated in Stockholm in 2010, and the NY branch opened right before the pandemic, only to close several months later. They reopened in August 2020, and things eventually picked up and the New York City cultural scene and art crowd took notice. The Chairman of the Board Yoram Roth is working hard to make it one of the largest private museums in the world with several new locations opening soon. They recently announced expansions to Berlin, Shanghai and Miami, with locations already in Tallinn, (Estonia) and of course Stockholm.

The exhibitions have varied from Andy Warhol, Sarah Moon, Miles Aldridge, Ellen Von Unworth, and Janette Beckman and Hissan Hajjaj (two of my favorites) who is known as ‘the Warhol’ of Morocco. The event space is wonderful, and I have been to at least 10 events there, including rare music from The Velvet Underground, and Subatomic Sound System, a panel for Janette Beckman’s new book “Rebels From Punk to Dior,” a pop up exhibition for the new movie “The House of Gucci”, a sound bowl meditation. Also a book launch for Ruth Orkin A Photo Spirit” and a film screening for “Little Fugitive (1953).” It is well worth a membership to be able to attend events all year, and at the very least, just stop by to browse the bookstore or have a coffee or wine in the first floor cafe.

I was thrilled with the recent show of my mother’s life’s work to celebrate her centennial titled: Ruth Orkin Expressions of Life (9/3/21 – 12/5/21) curated by Maria Sprowls. Maria was wonderful to work with and started coming over to the archive to choose photos once a week starting in the late Spring and through the summer. She was so passionate and interested in the work, so as a result it was more creative and complete than most shows.

She used large scale vinyls with oversized photos and contact sheets, and the early scrapbook pages of the bicycle trip were mounted on the wall, so the images could be looked at closely and even touched. This is not something normally encouraged, but it made the entire show much more accessible. There were also light boxes which added a nice touch, and a case with some of Ruth’s early cameras. The show was a survey of her work (not a complete retrospective) with a total of 65 photos.

The response to the show was terrific, and I loved giving over 75 tours to friends, relatives, clients, school groups, women’s groups and many other impromptu ones. We are hoping the show will travel to other museums in the United States in the near future. However, a European traveling show (organized by Anne Morin of DiChroma Photography) just opened outside of Venice in Bassano last week, and will be up until 5/2/22. There will be additional shows in San Sebastian, Spain and Cascais, Portugal.

Ruth Orkin: A Photo Spirit

Classic portraits, New York scenes and more from the brilliant and indefatigable American photographer. Co-edited by Mary Engel.

Wall Street Journal 2021 holiday gift guide pick

American photographer Ruth Orkin earned acclaim for her work as she combined her love for travel and her experience growing up in Hollywood into a practice that captured the cinematic elements of everyday life and revealed the humanity of the upper crust.

The atmospheric photographs taken by Orkin in cities such as Florence, New York and London still shape the image of these metropolises today: her street scenes consistently offer penetrating insights into the personality of her human subjects as well as their environments. This unique quality also manifests in her celebrity portraits of figures such as Albert Einstein, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams and Lauren Bacall: though clearly posed, these photographs offer a certain level of candor that allows the viewer to connect with the sitters on a human level. She also pursued filmmaking with two successful features, Little Fugitive (1953) and Lovers and Lollipops (1955)—and she did all of this as one of the few female practitioners in the field.

Published on the occasion of what would have been the photographer’s 100th birthday, this illustrated volume celebrates Orkin’s life and career with an equally extensive and fascinating overview of this exceptional artist’s oeuvre.

Ruth Orkin (1921–85) studied at Los Angeles City College. Working as a freelance photographer, she published in magazines such as Life, Look and Ladies’ Home Journal. She was awarded an Oscar for the film Little Fugitive, which she made with her husband in 1953. A World Through My Window (1978) is her best-known book of photographs.

WNYC Radio Interview

On September 16, 2021, Alison Stewart interviews Mary Engel and curator Amanda Hajjar regarding Fotografiska’s groundbreaking exhibit featuring Ruth Orkin’s oeuvre, title “Expressions of Life.” Listen to the conversation here!

B&H Photo’s Explora Blog: A Photographic Legacy from Ruth Orkin to her Daughter

Photo District News editor and technical photography author Jill Waterman has just written a wonderful article about Ruth Orkin’s photo legacy over in the B&H Photo Explora Blog. The article entitled “Continuity of Purpose: A Photographic Legacy from Ruth Orkin to Her Daughter” explores the relationship between Ruth Orkin and her daughter Mary, who now manages her mom’s legacy via the Orkin Photo Archives.

As we prepare to celebrate the 2021 centennial of Ruth Orkin’s birth, we’d like to thank B&H Photo and Jill Waterman for writing this lovely article. You can read the full article over at the B&H website.

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