Please look at the picture above. It was in The New Yorker, a magazine I prize above all others for their literature, their criticism, their casuals and their profiles. And oh yes, the cartoons, with the arcane punch lines that always leave me laughing.
But this picture was among their listings of photography exhibitions. Ruth Orkin's work was being displayed at the Greenberg Gallery. I know from Googling her that she was quite the well-known photographer, that she won tons of awards, and is best known for a picture she took and called "American Girl in Italy," showing a girl named Jinx Allen walking down the street and being ogled by a bunch of Italian guys. I think I've seen the picture before. I guess the philistine in me failed to recognize that it was an "iconic" photograph.
Listen, I mean no disrespect to Ms Orkin. I just need someone to explain a couple of things to me. First of all, the picture of the woman walking down the Roman street was staged, according to Wikepedia, which says the photographer asked her to walk down the street again to make sure she had the shot just right. So...spontaneous work of art, or staged photo op? You have to wonder if they told the guy on the Vespa to cock his head cockily to enhance the tension.
And the picture up top..."White Stoops, New York City, 1952." Help me here. What I see is, it was snowing, and she stuck her camera out the window, pushed the button and took the film down to the drugstore. She returned to the drugstore four days later in those pre-digital days, picked up some dusting powder and some pipe cleaners for her husband and then came home, saying, "Look, honey! The pictures came back!"
I mean, someone else built the buildings, union guys in Detroit made those cars, and Mr Kodak made the film and the camera. God made it snow. When the cars and the steps had a little coating of snow, Ms Orkin leaned out and snapped a picture of it all. Nice. Pretty. A pleasant way to remember a snowfall.
But how is this art? I just don't get it. If she drew the picture with a pencil or charcoal, or painted it, yeah, that's art. This is a picture of some cars in the snow. I'm either so oblivious to what constitutes art, or it's an Emperor's New Clothes thing where it's all a big gigantic ruse and we don't all know it.
At any rate, someone better notify me when and where I should bring my pictures from the blizzards we had last year so they can go on exhibition. I call this one "White Driveway with Red Truck, Carney MD 2010."
I really miss my truck.