Posted at 03:46 PM ET, 08/19/2011

Ninalee Craig, ‘American Woman in Italy,’ now 83, speaks of iconic photograph


An “American Girl in Italy,” 1951 (RUTH ORKIN/COLLECTION OF HELEN KORNBLUM)

A young woman clutches her scarf and bag, wending through a maze of Italian men. They kiss and gesture and stare at the tall beauty. It is an image familiar to college dorm walls and photography exhibits. A beautiful portrait snapped by Ruth Orkin. To many, it captures a woman overwhelmed by men.

To one person, though, it actually captures a woman overwhelming men.

That person, Ninalee Craig, knows well what it means to the woman in the photograph. She is that woman. Sixty years ago, calling herself “Jinx Allen,” Craig went traipsing through Europe, where she met another young woman exploring the world with a camera around her neck — Ruth Orkin, who would go on to become one of the most well-known woman photographers.

Orkin’s photograph of Craig is now on display in Toronto, where Craig eventually made a home. MSNBC spoke with the now-83-year-old, who told them, “It’s nota symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!”

There is so much wonderful about this story:

1) The name Craig gave herself. I want to change my name to Jinx now.

2) The notion that a 23-year-old Craig traipsed around Europe on $1 a day for six months.

3) The lovely reminder that sometimes friendship can spring up between strangers, and art can be created in a day.

4) The absolute pride Craig feels about the men in the photograph. To her, they were men appreciating a woman’s beauty.

5) More than anything, Craig’s closing line: “My life has been wonderful. ... I’m ready for more.”

By  |  03:46 PM ET, 08/19/2011

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