Before 1967, sixteen states including Virginia prohibited miscegenation, better known as interracial marriage. Mildred and Richard Loving married in the District of Columbia in 1958, and returned to their home state of Virginia when they were arrested for miscegenation. As an alternative to facing time in prison they chose to leave the state, but their fight for marriage equality did not diminish. Grey Villet, a photographer from Cape Town, South Africa, documented this couple’s fight for equality and love in a series called “The Heart of the Matter: Love”, published by Times magazine.
Villet’s photographs are stunningly beautiful. They document nothing but the simplicity of pure love, friendship and mutual respect. The closeness, intimacy and playfulness of these photographs demonstrates the subjects comfort with one another as well as a sense of family. The subjects that Villet documents include Mildred and Richard Loving, Mildred’s sister, Richard’s mother and friends as well as their children, Donald, Sidney and Peggy Loving. Villet documents them doing natural and day-to-day activities, such as playing, going to school, going into town, brushing hair and putting on a band aid. These photographs are extremely important (especially in the time period they arose in) because they exemplify how interracial couples are completely normal by showing their engagement in normal, everyday activities. Moreover, the emotional aspect of this photo essay is equally powerful as it shows a couple that is in a very comfortable and intimate relationship. The photo I have pasted below spoke to me the most – the comfortable gaze and positioning of Mildred and Richard as well as the child who sits in-between them wordlessly describes their closeness as well as their sense of family.
One of the most interesting things I found about this photo essay was that it doesn’t just apply to anti-miscegenation in the 1960s, but it applies to America’s struggle for marriage equality in 2015. In this day and age, if interracial dating and marriage were criminalized, there would be an uproar. It is something our country now takes for granted, and we see our right to love as one of our fundamental rights. This did not apply, however, to the LGBTQ community until June 26, 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled to make same-sex marriage a nationwide right. Same-sex marriage was and still is an extremely controversial issue, the most current debate being Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Legalizing gay marriage was an uncomfortable debate for many in the United States simply because it is a foreign concept of the new age, and aside from religious differences, many simply were not open-minded about same-sex marriage.
Villet’s documentary of the Lovings in the 1960s is just as applicable to our society today. Even though now, society has grown accustomed to bi-racial couples and miscegenation, the love, passion, intimacy and playfulness that Villet portrays in Mildred and Richard’s relationship can apply to anyone, anywhere, regardless of race, gender or sex.