Mary Engel has been handling the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive since the day her mother passed away on January 16, 1985. There were literally requests coming in, and it was a fly by night situation, where you just jump in and do your best. There was no one to tell me exactly what to do. There were certainly people in the industry I knew who I could consult with, but the whole process still had a big learning curve. I was also working full time at ARTnews, but took a few weeks off. I continued to work there for two years, then left to go to Showtime Networks for a 2 1/2 years, and then landed at the William Morris Agency in the training program. William Morris was an incredible boot camp/grad school for me, as it was being an agent for someone else, which is what I was doing with my mother’s work. In 1996 I got into Sundance with my film Ruth Orkin: Frames of Life, and went to the festival and was still a William Morris trainee. In my head, I was thinking “I could represent all these crazy actors, writers and directors etc”, or I could just represent my parents. I chose just handing the estate full time. It has been amazing, but also up and down. Some years are easier than others.
I combined my father’s archive when he passed away in 2005, and created the Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive. My father’s centennial in 2018 was exciting and we had a day long event at the Metrograph Theater, and showed the films (and had Birthday cake) all day! Last year 2021 (despite Covid) was one of my best! All the activity with Ruth’s centennial has been amazing and is continuing this year. Please go to www.orkinphoto.com/ruth-at-100.
It is exciting to have recently done a large scanning project, and it has been fun posting on Instagram to share all the photographs. I am very proud of what I have accomplished and continue to enjoy what I am doing to keep their work alive and in the public for future generations.