“The Heart of the Matter: Love” by Grey Villet

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.

“The Heart of the Matter: Love” Photo Essay by Grey Villet


4 thoughts on ““The Heart of the Matter: Love” by Grey Villet

  1. This photo essay is definitely something that caught my attention. It’s crazy to think that there was a time when interracial marriages could land you in jail. I take things like interracial marriage for granted so it always brings me back to reality when I see photos and hear stories like this. Like you said, we’ve been so focused on same-sex marriages lately that no one thinks about the progress our country’s made with interracial marriages anymore. As someone who’s sister is currently engaged to an African American man, this essay really touches my heart and makes me glad that we live in the time that we do.

  2. Hi Samantha,
    I completely agree with the idea of how interracial marriage in the 1950’s and 1960’s parallels with the the gay marriage rights today. Even though now interracial marriage is widely accepted and people are far more open minded about it, there are places around the world and even some parts of the United States where even if not outlawed or punished can be socially unacceptable or found queer, which is something to think about. Even though law has allowed the interracial and same sex marriage, which is nonetheless a great leap for the society and towards acceptances, does society really accepts them as open-mindedly as we expect it should? -Just a thought. I really like how the picture is so natural and loving with the familial value we all identify, and yet the controversy behind it is not as simple and sweet.

  3. I think it’s really interesting to look at the use of photography as a tool for social progression. Photos like the ones taken by Villet can be extremely powerful because they use imagery to show controversial ideas from a new perspective. These photos display the Lovings’ relationship as natural and happy. For individuals at the time who were against interracial marriage, the message behind these photos would likely contradict what they had been raised to believe. Not everyone would change their opinions, but these photos would help start the conversation.

  4. Okay, I just wanted to say I love this story. People should be able to love, because that’s impressive no matter what. Our biology teacher always told us Biology wants us to interbreed because it makes our genetics more likely to survive, so it’s always funny to think that some people are against it. Photographs of facial expressions are probably my favorite thing too, I think it’s amazing to see love written on people’s faces- so cool!

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