I’m captivated by Ruth Orkin‘s photograph Man in Rain (1952). It’s an incredibly haunting image of a solitary man walking down the street during a typical New York Summer thunderstorm. It was raining so hard at the time Orkin shot the photo that the only other person on the street is the woman in a skirt, seen in the background.
Who is this man? Where was he going without an umbrella in the midst of a torrential downpour?
At this point in her life Orkin was living on 88th Street, as evidenced by the site of Bill Pogue’s Bar, which was located at 100 West 88th Street in New York City. The building still stands.
Take a good look at the photo. Breathe while you do. It smells of Summer. It’s hot, humid, and wet. I can hear the rain beating against her glass window as this man walks down the street. I can hear it slamming against the car roofs of the automobiles. The man in this landscape is the loneliest man on earth. Thanks to Ms. Orkin, he’ll be walking down this street for as long as this image is in my mind. Still, I want to be on this street. I want to follow this man. Where is he going? Why is he here? Where is his umbrella. The street behind him seems to go on forever. I can see Bill Pogue’s Bar in the background. Was I in there having a drink that day in 1952? Is that why I love with this photograph? I want to sit beside Orkin and watch him walk, maybe while having a cigarette and an afternoon drink. I want the kind of afternoon drink that tastes best when drank with eyes closed, face pressed on the window glass rain hitting the other side. The kind of drink that would make me breath heavily, letting the humid July day envelope my nostrils.
But, I can’t be this man. I have to be settle with being a hand-me-down voyeur in this instance. You know what, it’s not enough. I want more. I really do.