This blog is composed of images and writings related to the life and work of Faith Ringgold, her mother Mme. Willi Posey, and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. There are pages with links to blogs composed of the materials arranged by decades. The blog, itself, will ultimately be composed of materials related to the life of the family in the 90s and the 21st century.

Thursday

Photo Essay: Dark Designs and Visual Culture


Wedding Gathering 2, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This photograph is used on the cover of Dark Design and Visual Culture, Duke University Press 2004. The picture was taken in 1950 and it forms the thematic basis of my writing on photography since the year 2000, which forms a continuation of my work on African American visual culture since the completion of my dissertation on the topic: Passing, Lynching and Jim Crow: African American Visual Culture, 1895-1927 in Cinema Studies in 1999.
This event takes place in 1950 outside of Abyssinian Baptist Church where my Aunt Barbara is about to be married.  This collection of people is composed of Mme. Willi Posey, my grandmother, and a fashion designer who had designed her own dress as well as all of the dresses of the other participants in the wedding; Aunt Barbara, her oldest daughter, is the bride; her youngest daughter, Faith, 18, is on the right and wearing glasses which she will not wear in the portrait shots.  Also in the shot is a rented limousine, which they are getting out of.  Brownie who was MJ's best friend immortalized in Faith's mask series as "Mrs. Brown," is engaged in some business with Aunt Barbara's dress.  Andrew Jones Sr., the father and the only man in the picture, has been resurrected in his role as patriarch for this occasion.
MJ and he are already divorced owing to his drinking and his fondness for the sporting life and she has already begun to use her maiden name, Willi Posey with Madame on the front, as her professional name.  In the lower right hand of the photo is Cheryl, MJ's first grandchild, the daughter of her oldest son, Andrew Jones.  She is dressed as a flower girl.
MJ must have paid dearly for this wedding because there was never to be another one like it in the family.  She was a woman who knew how to stretch a dollar until it screamed and these wedding pictures serve as the ultimate verification of that skill.  On exhibition here is not a casual, bourgeois wealth but rather the serious discipline imposed by a standard of chic, style and glamour which Harlemites of my grandmother's ilk simply took for granted.  MJ was also no doubt celebrating the fact that she had successfully ushered Aunt Barbara through her college graduation at New York University the spring before.  The first college graduate in two generations.
This is a candid shot taken perhaps accidentally at the spur of the moment by MJ's favorite photographer, D'Laigle.  It never made it past the proof sheet, which happened to survive.  I cut it out, mended it and had it restored for the picture it presents of the state of my family of origin in 1950.
I love the way the personalities are revealed by it. Everybody is on a different wavelength.  Aunt Barbara is tiny (she weighed less than 100 pounds and the dress, which survives, looks like it is for a 12 year old) and has assumed almost the character of a madonna through the mystery of the veil.  Faith has a look of anticipation and expectancy, perhaps indicative of the plan that must already be evolving in her head of eloping with my dad later that same year.  Grandpa Andrew seems to me charmingly tipsy.  The surprised, sort of caught in the headlights elegance of MJ reminds of some of the Weegee photographs of the rich on their nights out.  That's another thing.  It appears to be a night photograph but am not sure if it is.

Friends of Soul Pictures

Labels

Post Archive

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures
Barbara, MJ, Michele and Mom in the background in sunglasses at a fashion show in the early 60s