As long as we both shall live

I was flitting around my favourite photography websites late this afternoon and stumbled across a great series of pics by American photographer Robert Fass called “As Long As We Both Shall Live: Long-Married Couples in America”. It’s basically a series of 12 images of couples from various walks of life talking about what marriage means to them and how they’ve managed to sustain their unions.

Jon and Jarline by Robert Fass

Jon and Jarline by Robert Fass (2003)

There are two of the images I picked as favourites, not so much for the image, but the story behind it. John and Jarline, for example. They were married in 1950. John says: “I really believe that we’re not compatible, from a standpoint of having common interests. But in electronic terms, there’s a circuit in an amplifier called push-pull. The final stage is called push-pull. They’re not the same, but one of ’em pushes, and the other one pulls. You know, so this is the way that the amplifier operates at the output stage. And I always view a couple, a marriage couple, in this kind of a sense, because I know this amplifier works, I know how it works, and I can describe exactly some of the things that each portion of this – it doesn’t call it a male and female, but it has opposite characteristics.

Fass adds: “They’re just complementary and …”

To which Jon responds: “Yes, and that’s exactly what it’s called. A complementary pair.”

The other story is of native American couple Lyle and Arlita, who were married 1956. Lyle tells of the moment he just knew he’s seen “the one”.

“One day – I was in the fifth grade … this girl, she sticks her tongue out at me. And I looked at her, you know, and I knew already,” he says. “That this girl was gonna be my girlfriend. You know, how your marriage is made, made in heaven? It was already documented already.”

I very much like that sentiment – just knowing, a certainty about someone you can’t deny.

With divorce rates on the rise not just in the United States but all over the western world in particular, I thought Fass’s work was full of optimism and a refreshing take on something that many people of my generation and the one after have arguably become quite cynical about.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

One thought on “As long as we both shall live

  1. Dear Toby,

    Thank you for featuring my work on your blog. I wanted to make you (and your readers) aware that the selection featured on is just a small sampling of the full project, which features nearly three dozen couples and in-depth interviews with most of them. The full essay can be viewed at the official project site, There is also a newly-created Facebook page for the project.

    All the best,
    Robert Fass, NYC
    the As Long As We Both Shall Live project


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