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A Favorite of Mine

A Favorite of Mine

Both the image and photographer...

............American girl in Italy: 60 years later
..By Mike Krumboltz
A stunning young woman walks down a street in Florence, her head held high. All around, men playfully gawk at her grace and beauty. Just then the camera shutter snaps. "American Girl in Italy" is among the most popular snapshots of all time, and it's turning 60 years old this month.

The photo, which was shot in 1951, perfectly captures the fun and romance of being abroad. In honor of its birthday, Ninalee Craig, the subject of the photo spoke with the "Today" show about what happened behind the scenes and what the photo really represents.

In her "Today" appearance, Craig spoke about how, despite what some might say, the photo isn't a "symbol of harassment." Craig insists that the image is "a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time."


Craig should know--when the photo was taken, she was a 23-year-old traveling alone through Europe. While staying at a cheap hotel, Craig met photographer Ruth Orkin, who was also touring the continent solo. The two spoke about the fun and challenges of being alone while on the road in Italy--and went on to hatch a plan to take photos highlighting that experience.

For two hours, the photographer and amateur model walked the streets of Florence. Orkin took photos at markets and in cafes. The street-scene photo came about naturally. According to Craig, Orkin shot only two pictures of her walking down the macho street. One of them turned out to be the iconic image commemorated today.

As for whether or not the photo was staged, Craig says no way. "The big debate about the picture, which everyone always wants to know, is: Was it staged? No! No, no, no! You don't have 15 men in a picture and take just two shots. The men were just there . . . . The only thing that happened was that Ruth Orkin was wise enough to ask me to turn around and go back and repeat" the walk down the street.

In the interview, Craig also remarked that she never felt in danger while walking among the admiring men. "None of those men crossed the line at all," she said.

Craig is now a great-grandmother living in Toronto. Orkin, who passed away in 1985, went on to co-write and co-direct the 1956 Oscar-nominated film "Little Fugitive." Of course, both women will be best remembered for one indelible image that, staged or not, captured the public's imagination and never let go.


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Jola Dziubinska11-May-2012 11:27
Wonderful street scene, great story as well. Thanks for sharing.
Marc de Wit28-Jul-2011 19:55
One of my favourites !
It's on my kitchenwall 3 years allready , 80 x 120 cms
It will NEVER bore me.

The story behind this shot is also very fascinating :
is it posed or not ?
Offcourse it's posed , no doubt about that , but makes no difference to me.

This shot is fantastic , the whole atmosphere makes me feel good . Again and again.

Well , my opinion
PauloCGama15-Jul-2011 18:02
Ageless ... Wonderful!
teachpeace15-Jul-2011 17:30
Love to look back at classics :)
Enny15-Jul-2011 17:21
stays wonderful for ever and ever.
Mary Bowles15-Jul-2011 16:47
A favourite of mine, too, now.
One girl, running the gauntlet of fifteen leering men, with her head held high.
Well done that girl, and Ruth Orkin too.
Nice to see that her work lives on.