Ruth Orkin - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Directly from the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive, New York

  • Literature

    Steichen, The Family of Man, p. 40, there captioned U.S.A. Ruth Orkin
    Hatje Cantz, Ruth Orkin: A Photo Spirit, pp. 56-59, there dated 1952
    Orkin, A Photo Journal, p. 48

  • Catalogue Essay

    The five photographs offered here showcase Ruth Orkin’s ability to create, through a progression of images, a character study of depth, nuance, and humor. Orkin was also a filmmaker and had a deep understanding of how images gathered strength when sequenced together. The principal subject of The Card Players is a young girl named Marilyn who lived near Orkin in Greenwich Village. While the expressiveness of Marilyn’s face and gestures may have precluded a career as a professional gambler, they deliver a solid jolt of exuberance. Marilyn’s older brother is the titular figure in Orkin’s similarly delightful sequence entitled Jimmy, the Storyteller.

    When Edward Steichen was planning The Family of Man, which would become The Museum of Modern Art’s most heavily attended exhibition of photographs, Orkin was too busy working on her film The Little Fugitive to submit photographs for consideration. Knowing of her talents, Steichen sent his assistant Wayne Miller to her studio to make a selection of images, and Miller chose The Card Players. Orkin writes, ‘One of the requirements for inclusion in The Family of Man was that there be “single pictures only . . . no sequences.” In 1955, when the exhibit opened, I asked Steichen why The Card Players was included. His answer: ‘Well, we couldn’t leave little Marilyn out!”’ (A Photo Journal, p. 49).

    In installation of The Family of Man exhibition at MoMA the full group of six images from The Card Players were hung vertically on a wall adjacent to Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Drum Major. The flush-mounting of the photographs offered here is very similar in style those exhibited prints. Orkin’s notations on the label affixed to the reverse of one of these early prints make specific reference to the exhibition.


The Card Players, New York City

Five gelatin silver prints, each flush-mounted, likely printed in the 1950s.
Each approximately 10 5/8 x 16 in. (27 x 40.6 cm)
One signed, titled, dated and annotated 'from "Family of Man"' in ink on a label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount.

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $32,760

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225
[email protected]


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243
[email protected]


New York Auction 7 October 2021