College photography exhibit shows Lovings in black and white

The Lovings, an Intimate Portrait: Photographs by Grey Villet opened on May 26 at the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s Overbrook Gallery. The exhibition, which features 20 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 Aug. 13.
Because their home state of Virginia was one of 16 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, they “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 vs. 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.
The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and on the weekend from 12-5 p.m. For more information call (802) 443–5007 or TTY (802) 443–3155, or visit museum.middlebury.edu. 

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