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 American Girl Italy Americana Italia 1951RUTH ORKIN

The Illusion of Time


2022.07.07 - 2022.11.06

Curator: Anne Morin


Pursuing a career as a filmmaker in the United States during the first half of the 20th century was an obstacle course for women. Women were engaged in feeding the factory of dreams, but not in making them, which meant that all careers behind the camera were unquestionably earmarked for men. Ruth Orkin (Boston, 3 September 1921 – New York, 16 January 1985) had to renounce her vocation, or at least redirect and transform it, and this setback would perhaps lead to definitively shaping her photographic work.


If we analyse Orkin’s work in this, her first international exhibition, the ghost of cinema appears in a variety of forms from the outset of her early images. It slithers into the tiny cracks of the frame to create dual depth in the image, in which the flow of movement begins its tempo.

A spark, an imprint that encloses a "filmic or duration effect", a simulated duration such as that of one of cinema’s invisible tricks, for is not cinema ultimately the art of movement produced from stillness?

Orkin never failed to combine the temporal qualities of the photographic image to simulate film. Sequences, decomposition of movement, duplication, simultaneity, her visual language lies at the juncture of the photographic image and cinema, at the crossroads of stillness and movement. Orkin’s photography is a melting pot, a space that restores time and movement, pushing photographic language beyond its limits until it yields to the power of illusion and magic.


The exhibition is divided into 4 axes that allow us to understand the debt of Ruth Orkin's photographs with cinema.

Photography: American Girl, Itali, 1951




autorretrato Ruth Orkin (1921-1985)



The daughter of Mary Ruby, a silent film actress, she grew up in the corridors of Hollywood during the 1920s-30s and received her first camera at the age of 10, a 39-cent Univex, with which she began taking photographs. But Ruth Orkin’s real passion was for the moving image, for filmmaking.

She worked for a while as a messenger at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, moving quickly from one department to another and yet taking the time to let her eyes wander and learn many things that she would constantly put into practice in her still images. She was simultaneously studying photojournalism at Los Angeles City College in the early 1940s and embarked on a career as a reportage photographer for major illustrated magazines such as LIFE, Look and Ladies Home Journal, among others.

But what would remain always implicit in her work was her fascination with the heuristic power of cinema. And it was this lost opportunity to follow her vocation that would compel Orkin to work within its margins and invent a language at the juncture of the two genres, a language that lies in a middle ground between the moving image and still image, thereby leading to an ongoing correspondence between two parallel temporalities. These secret strands constantly interfere upon each other, each introduced into the other, are confused, opened or folded upon each other.



Photography: Self-portrait



Commented guided tours:

Sundays | Free

5.30pm in Basque / 6.30pm in Spanish

Prior booking is required by calling 943 25 19 37 at the Gallery or writing to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Dialogues with Ruth Orkin: The Illusion of Time

20 October 2022, 7 pm

Screening of the film The Little Fugitive, 1953 (written and directed by: Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin. Original version in English with Spanish subtitles. 80 min.) and discussion with the exhibition’s curator, Anne Morin.

Cinema (1st floor. Tabakalera)

Tickets on sale at Tabakalera’s usual outlets




Discarge here the exhibition gide:

broch orkin