Perfect harmony: Marriage in black and white

If– as is asserted in the forward to Mary Motley Kalergis’ moving new book, Love in Black and White– 99.9 percent of the DNA of every person on earth is identical, then here is a celebration of that nine-tenths of a percent of uniqueness.
Kalergis, a celebrated documentary photographer, trains her camera’s eye on interracial marriage, and the beautiful contrasts of her black and white photographs are a testament to the crossed color-line that their subjects represent. Complementing each conjugal portrait is the story of how it came to be, told in the subjects’ own voices from interviews conducted by the photographer.
 Many of the featured couples live in Virginia, where interracial marriage was illegal 35 years ago, and where prejudice, resentment, and divisiveness still reign in some places. Some are high-profile Charlottesville personalities: Maurice Cox and his wife, Giovanna Galfione, as well as Rita Dove and her husband, Fred Viebahn, combine mixed racial roots with different nationalities in their unions. Boyd Tinsley of Dave Matthews Band fame is featured with his wife, Emily, who remembers her hockey- and lacrosse-playing youth as “pretty much filled with blue-eyed blondes.”
Kalergis, who celebrated commitment and family in her last book, With This Ring, says the premise of Love in Black and White is to ask “Can our society moved beyond the resentment, guilt, and expectations that are a legacy of slavery and segregation?”
The pictures she presents as an answer show clearly that society has done just that, even if only on the small scale of the individuals found in its pages.
While many of these people are aware of their societal role in testing racial attitudes and assumptions, other express a bemused indifference to the issue: “I don’t think our different races have been much of an issue in our life together,” says Carlotta McIntyre, who met her husband, Biff, in Jamaica. “We just feel like us, whether we’re going to a Contra dance or a Reggae show.”
Portraits of people in love are inherently pleasing, but perhaps the most beautiful subjects are the cherished offspring of these unions. Without exception, the children found in the pages of this tasteful album are astonishingly beautiful.
“Do I look like an Oreo to you?” asks 10-year old Daniel Burns, whose dazzling smile is framed in the fork of a tree as he poses with his more clearly definable parents. “I’m tan,” he concludes, a color not found in Kalergis’ non-discriminating photographic palette.

Mary Motley Kalergis signs copies of Love in Black & White (Dafina Books) at New Dominion Bookshop on Wednesday, October 30, 5:30pm.

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