Interracial Couples Honor 50th Anniversary of Loving V. Virginia In New Photo Series

Liz Susong gets the story behind The Fifty Project

Updated 12/26/17

The Fifty Project

The editor of Catalyst Wed Co. interviews photographer Tim Riddick about his project highlighting the stories of interracial couples in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Loving V. Virginia.

Tim Riddick is a wedding and family photographer based out of DC who one day found himself in a disagreement with his wife. The disagreement was minor, but Tim knew it was deeply rooted in the fact that he is a person of color from Hawaii, while his wife is white and was raised in a conservative military family. “We were raised differently, and every now and then our opinions are biased based on our cultural differences.” The more Tim thought about it, the more he knew that “clearly, we are not the only ones who are dealing with our cultural differences while dedicating ourselves to each other and our marriage.” And this is when Tim had the idea for the Fifty Project.

2017 marked the 50 year anniversary of the Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Tim says, “It is still mind-blowing that it has only been 50 years that people have been allowed to interracially marry.” Tim wondered if he might be able to photograph 50 interracial couples to celebrate the anniversary, as well as explore some of the themes he experiences in his own life. And then, his father-in-law took a position at a baptist church in Caroline County, Virginia, the county where Richard and Mildred Loving lived and were jailed for a year in 1959 due to being an interracial couple. When Tim toured the town and saw the jail, he says, “My plans really went on overdrive.”

Initially, Tim spoke with a few friends in interracial marriages and started sharing their images and experiences on social media. But the project really took off when Tim posted a request to photograph interracial couples in the Rising Tide Society Facebook group, which has nearly 75,000 members. “I went from having seven couples that had signed up to having a 157 couples that were willing to be photographed.”

Tim has traveled far and wide to photograph couples for the Fifty Project, saying “I have made new friends with these couples, and we have understood each other on a deeper level than I have with most of my paying clients.” When Tim photographs the couples, he also endeavors to document their stories. “I think a lot of the conversations that we are having have been whispered in corners and not out loud to the world.”

He has heard couples discuss the challenges associated with coming from culturally opposite families who don’t particularly get each other. Some couples expressed concerns about where they would live together: “We had to be conscientious of what we said and who we said it to, always leery of showing pictures of our spouse to certain people.” Parents shared that strangers often confront them with rude questions: “Complete strangers would often ask me, in front of my kids, ‘Are those your kids?’ Even though it happened hundreds of times, I was taken aback each and every time.”

Tim says a theme of his project is that “almost every couple has been racially discriminated against.” One spouse shares that her husband has been called the N-word “on multiple occasions in the most random situations. Once, he was riding his pricey road bike through our suburban neighborhood and a teenager yelled the N-word out of his truck window.” Another spouse says, “When we first began dating I would take serious offense to some of the questions people would ask me about my husband. I often take more offense to injustice than he does. I believe it is because he has grown accustomed to it and thinks that is just the way it is and will always be."

The Fifty Project

Tim says that listening to these couples’ stories “goes to show that there is not a ‘safe place’ for interracial couples.” Tim has photographed couples on both coasts and Canada, but no place is truly safe from racial discrimination. However, Tim also sees the beauty in the project, which “has been in part a healing journey for me and for my couples.” He quotes one couple who shares that “When you combine and overcome differences, incredible things happen — your mind expands, your heart becomes more open and your ability to love and fight for what matters becomes stronger.” Some couples truly experience the power of their unity when they have children. One couple says that the day their child was born was “the day we recognized that the hard work we have been putting into ourselves individually, as well as our marriage, was paying off and resulting in a love that we had never experienced before.”

While none of the couples’ experiences have surprised Tim, he has been moved by how “astounding, sad, and encouraging” the stories are, providing an honest “look into the struggle that many have today with interracial marriage.” Tim sees one overarching storyline: “People just want to love who they want to love and be accepted for who they love.”

The future of the Fifty Project is bright, and some exciting things are in the works. As wedding season is winding down, Tim is putting all his focus on the project. He will be photographing and interviewing 20 more couples this winter. If you want to follow along and find out where and how the project will be fully unveiled, you can follow Tim on Instagram @timriddick, sign up for updates via his website timriddick.com, or you can contact him to be part of the project yourself.

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