This is a classic: Ruth Orkin’s “Comic Book Readers, New York City, 1947”. I particularly like it for the wonderful composition, and the detailed information about what city girls in that period typically wore. In fact you start to wonder how “casual” a shot it really was, when you realise all three girls are wearing pretty well the same floral-print light frock and sturdy shoes and socks – two also wearing hair-ribbons. Plus, the girl on the right doesn’t seem to be reading a comic: it has a lurid picture of a “fast” girl in a short skirt with the title “Hedy” – and the “comic reading” also seems to be in deliberate contrast to the serious religious tomes in the shop window. So “reportage” could be a misnomer: but it’s still a heck of an image….
The second image is far less easy to source: at least it has a source, but identifying the gender of the photographer, his/her actual name and nationality, the year and location of the photo are problematic. It backtracks to a photographer called “SA faces” on the Russian Photosight image library site, but significantly the image file contains the words “favorite_authors_photos”: although searching the address watermarked on the image itself, Sa-faces.com, does bring you to an interesting photo blog with galleries of images from Indonesia and Cambodia, as well as portraits and tasteful nudes – but not this particular shot. If you hover over the web address it says: “Photo by Saura-agni”, Saura-agni being an occult Indian name for solar fire – where I guess the “SA” in the Photosight name-tag comes from…..but it leaves me even more in the dark….
The girl on the left looks Indian in fact, or at least from the subcontinent: but not a street girl, as she’s wearing a watch. The contrast between her and the other girl is clearly what makes the image: the differences in colouring and clothing – but also the similarities: two girls about the same age, happily sitting together on the worn steps. As one of the Russian commenters on Photosight says: “Young gossips!!!!” I wouldn’t even say the location is run-down or decrepit: there are some cigarette stubs on the ground, true, but the paving slabs and the walls are well- grouted and mortared, and the door behind recently painted in a crisp white with what looks like a large new number one attached.
Oh, for some clear information, or at least a good knowledge of Cyrillic script…..
The final image is thankfully well-documented: it’s by Swedish photographer Gunnar Smoliansky, and it’s called “Sodermalm 1959” Södermalm (a district of central Stockholm) is currently “the coolest place in Europe”, apparently – let’s hope all these four are still alive, and enjoying it as much as they seem to have done as children – even in their retirement years!! (And don’t those feet look lovely and dirty!!)