“American Girl in Italy” is one of the most iconic images ever captured by an American photographer. It was taken by Ruth Orkin in 1951, and today the image turns 60. The photographer died in 1985, but the woman who is the subject of the photograph is still alive. Her name is Ninalee Craig, she is 83 years old, and she now lives in Toronto.
I had always thought of the subject of this photo as a woman surrounded by danger and in distress. At least that is the impression that one gets from the distraught look on her face. But it turns-out that my interpretation is incorrect. In a recent interview, Ms. Craig said this about the photo:
“Some people want to use it as a symbol of harassment of women, but that’s what we’ve been fighting all these years. It’s not a symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!”
This is another reminder of the need for hermeneutical humility. Things are not always as they seem. The picture was actually somewhat staged. The photographer had instructed the men not to look at the camera, so apparently they decided to look at the subject. You can read the full story behind the photograph here. A picture of Ms. Craig today is below.