In many ways, Ruth Orkin’s (American, 1921–1985) photograph of Woody Allen (American, b. 1935) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reveals a complex set of worlds—toying with our perceptions and the literal reading of images. On the surface, a young Allen is photographed somberly mimicking the pose of an aristocrat (who, on another plane, rests his hand on his hip). Within a gilded and ornate frame, a painted aristocrat draws the viewer’s attention further into the scene towards a painting of a Greek or Roman statue (moreover, emphasized by a statuette of Athena in the background). Overall, the commentary could allude to the art industry as a whole. Photography and film, the newest mediums in the industry, are used to parallel and capture the more traditional mediums of painting, both ultimately paying homage to the birthplace of fine art—Western civilization. That Orkin chose Allen as the subject of this portraiture adds a unique sense of playfulness to the whole subject. In the end, the viewer is presented with a series of conversations taking place on a multitude of planes (all of which captivate and interrelate).
Ruth Orkin, Woody Allen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1963