When looking through Ruth Orkin’s vast collection of images, the one theme that seemed to tie each series together was the sense of wonder. Ruth is known for her travel pictures and capturing the urban landscape but it’s the sense of adventure and wanderlust that feels most present, in her images and independent films. And alongside her many travel pictures from Rome to Tel Aviv, I noticed her affection for photographing children, often in a frame of humour and whimsy. On her archive site, run by her daughter Mary Engel, it unveils that photographing children became her favourite subject.
In the past year under social distancing and lockdown, I’ve thought of the children that have been robbed of some of their childhood; the opportunity to play with friends on a stoop or to hug distant family. I had been wondering if they had felt the need to have a more adult and serious view on the world. But looking through Ruth’s archive I’ve realised that children are resilient and forever curious, and indeed many adults are able to hold on to the child-like wonder (as I feel it’s evident that Ruth did throughout her career).
Drawing parallels between the grown-ups and the kids, Ruth seems to be implying that the childhood curiosity and ability to play are one’s that should be protected and fostered. Children often like to play-pretend they’re grown and mature but given the chance I’m sure adults and children alike would much rather succumb to curiosity, wonder and adventure.