Revisiting That Famous Florence Photo

Ninalee Craig's story will never get old

Bravissimo! That’s our reaction to Ninalee Craig’s latest recollection in Guardian Weekend of posing in 1951 for a photo that has endured to this day.

GuardianThatsMeLogoCraig, then 23, explains how she had left New York City for Europe in the spring of 1951 and met photographer Ruth Orkin in Florence just the night before the famous shot snapped by Orkin of her walking down the street, surrounded by admiring Italian men. She also comments on, ahem, the most notable of those admiring men:

Oh, and that poor soul touching himself? I was used to it. It was almost like a good luck sign for the Italian man, making sure the family jewels were intact. When it was first published, that was occasionally airbrushed out but I would never consider it to be a vulgar gesture.

My expression is not one of distress, that was just how I stalked around the city. I saw myself as Beatrice of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You had to walk with complete assurance and maintain a dignity at all times. The last thing you would do would be to look them in the eye and smile. I did not want to encourage them. This image has been interpreted in a sinister way but it was quite the opposite. They were having fun and so was I.

Different times. And while the nightly hotel rate Craig and Orkin were paying n Florence at the time ($1) sound ridiculous today, the potential photo licensing fee from a New York newspaper ($15) does not. Today, thanks to Shutterstock and other services, websites are often paying incrementally less than that. In the end, the picture ran in 1952 in Cosmopolitan.

Orkin, who passed away in 1985, was an adventurer from the word go. From her biography:

Orkin was the only child of Mary Ruby, a silent-film actress, and Samuel Orkin, a manufacturer of toy boats called Orkin Craft. She grew up in Hollywood in the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. At the age of 10, she received her first camera, a 39 cent Univex. She began by photographing her friends and teachers at school. At 17-years-old, she took a monumental bicycle trip across the United States from Los Angeles to New York City to see the 1939 World’s Fair, and she photographed along the way.

Click here to see the photo, read the rest.

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@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.
Publish date: January 30, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT