Mexican-Salvadoran-American Girl in Downtown Los Angeles

My sister Beatriz is one of the most gorgeous women I know.  She’s breathtakingly beautiful with glowing sun kissed skin and a joyous full of life way about her. When we are together, we laugh and laugh in a secret way that only sisters can. When I was browsing through her pictures on Facebook, I noticed one in particular that caught my eye.

The image below, taken by her photographer friend, Brenda Bravo, strikes a similar resemblance to one of my favorite photographs of all time, “American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin.

St. Patricks Day Los Angeles, by Brenda Bravo, 2010
"American Girl in Italy" by Ruth Orkin, 1951

Ruth Orkin was a rebel rousing independent woman who traveled the world and captured the essence of what it was like to be a woman in 1951. Her most famous photograph, “American Girl in Italy” demonstrates a very simple, and very real relationship between a woman walking down a street and the men who look at her.

The status of women in the 1950’s was certainly different than what it is today. It had been just about six years after WWII when Orkin snapped her picture. Women in America were straddling the thin line of  leaving their Rosie the Rivetor jobs and becoming a typical 1950’s housewife, just as young high school girls were being taught “How to be Good Wife” in home economics. I can only imagine what it must have been like for women in Italy, with a country still building itself from the ruins of war.

What Orkin portrays with “American Girl in Italy” is a scurrying young woman clutching her chest, with a pained look on her face as she tries to get past the long line of cat calling leering men.

Fast forward 59 years later, and we can see a similar image captured by Bravo. Yet, something is different. My sister walks with confidence, aware of the looks, incredulous to the stares, head held high, arms at ease, gliding with her step. She confronts the tension in the air with her own power and radiant feminine sexuality. She knows where she is going and she makes her way without regard as to what anyone may think, do or say.

How times have changed. As women, we have come a long way in freeing ourselves from bullet bras and Mad Men husbands. We are independent free thinking women who laugh, love, drink, eat, etc., etc.!

As a photographer myself, I love seeing one of my favorite pictures captured so candidly in present day. 2 kudos to Brenda Bravo!

I smile wondering what Orkin (1921 – 1985) would say of this comparison… if only she could see what I see…

3 thoughts on “Mexican-Salvadoran-American Girl in Downtown Los Angeles

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