This is QR code number 7 and the last grouping of portraits. This section examines wedding portraits. In front of you, three black-and-white photographs are mounted on shiny black square matboards and set side-by-side in a freestanding black steel display frame about two and a half feet in front of the wall. Unlike Avedon’s other subjects, the people depicted here are not famous. They are ordinary people who have just gotten married in civil weddings at City Hall in New York City. A photo collage of wedding images taken by various photographers in the 1950s and 60s serves as a backdrop on the wall behind the portraits and includes photos of a war bride, a wedding between an interracial couple, and an elderly couple ducking rice.
On the left is a photo of two white men and a white woman. This is the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Luca Ghettadli. The woman is wearing a polka dot suit with a floral corsage on the upper left side of her jacket. She is turned toward the man on her right. Her eyes seem to be pointed down at his deeply puckered lips and her mouth forms a slight smile. The man is wearing a suit with a corsage on his jacket. He leans into her body, looking directly at her face. The other man is also wearing a suit, standing in profile on the other side of the woman and smiling at the couple.
The center photo shows the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Mario Niles. Two men and a woman surround a second, taller woman wearing a light-colored dress in the center of the photograph. They are all Black and appear to be in their 30s or 40s. The men are in suits and standing on either side of the taller woman; leaning towards the back of her head to kiss her. She is smiling at the other woman who is wearing a dark dress and leaning in close to her face. The second woman’s back is to the camera. The taller woman in the middle of the attention holding a piece of paper or book in her hands near her waist.
The portrait on the left is of the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. William Munoz. A young man and woman fill most of the photograph. An older woman’s smiling face can be seen between and behind the couple’s arms. The back of an older man’s head and shoulder can be seen behind the young woman on the left. The smiling young woman is leaning in and possibly wiping lipstick off his face. His hand is on her waist with an envelope resting in the gap between their bent elbows.
After the uncertainty and trauma of World War II, some Americans embraced conformity to feel secure. Magazines featured white, heterosexual couples in glamorous church weddings. But real brides and grooms often looked different. Richard and Mildred Loving, who married in 1958, were jailed for being an interracial couple and their lawsuits helped overturn racist marriage laws. Life magazine featured their story, and other stories about interracial marriages were covered in Jet and Ebony.
Avedon featured designer wedding gowns among the fashion spreads and advertisements he produced. However, in 1961, he created a set of wedding photographs for Harper’s Bazaar focused on the civil weddings of middle-class couples at New York City Hall.
About the photos label
Most wedding photos are personal mementos, but these photographs were not meant for the bride and groom. These couples—Mr. and Mrs. Luca Ghettadli [left], Mr. and Mrs. Mario Niles [center], and Mr. and Mrs. William Munoz [right]—appeared in the August 1961 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. They were featured in a photo essay of people married in New York City civil weddings. Unlike the glamour one might expect to see in a fashion magazine's wedding feature, Avedon’s photographs show real people from different backgrounds and in different stages of life.
The path through the gallery continues on your right. A sharp left turn will take you around the corner of a free-standing wall and into the seating and conversation area. The next QR code will be located on your left at the other end of the wall. It will be indicated by a floor marker.