Middlebury College Museum of Art

Exhibitions

The Lovings, An Intimate Portrait: Photographs by Grey Villet

May 26–August 13, 2017
This exhibition, which features twenty photographs by Grey Villet drawn largely from his germinal 1965 LIFE magazine photo essay telling the remarkable and epochal love story of interracial couple Mildred and Richard Loving, takes its name from the recently published book, which presents that photo essay in its entirety for the first time. The book, which includes a text by his colleague and widow Barbara Villet, Middlebury Class of 1952, and was designed by their daughter Ann Villet, Middlebury Class of 1987, will be available for purchase through the Museum’s store for the duration of the exhibition, which will remain on view through August 13.

photograph of the Lovings by Grey Villet
Mildred and Richard Loving, 1965. Photo by Grey Villet. Used with permission of the Estate of Grey Villet.

Because their home state of Virginia was one of sixteen in the country that prohibited interracial marriage, the Lovings were legally married in Washington, D.C. in 1958. On returning to their families in Virginia, however, they were arrested on charges of violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Ultimately facing long jail terms, they were released on the condition that they left the state. With three children and little means of support away from their home, however, they risked their security and returned five years later to begin an uphill legal battle for the right to live together.

Grey Villet visited the Lovings in the spring of 1965, as their case worked its way through the courts, and his warm and intimate images of their family life in their community document their remarkable bond. As Barbara Villet writes, the “tell of a love story that is still influential in a changing America.”

Two years later, on June 12, 1967 in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, they were exonerated and the prohibition against inter-racial marriage was abolished.

The photographs on view expand upon those published in Villet’s LIFE magazine article about the couple, which has inspired a television documentary as well as the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Loving, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. These images, the results of Villet’s patient style and preference for using only available light, bear a softness and an intimacy that transport the viewer directly into the heart of the scene.

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