Monroe Gallery of Photography
Monroe Gallery of Photography



GREY VILLET

A Portrait of LIFE in America
May 5 — June 25, 2017

Farmers Randy & Lois Oster speak with lawyer activist Sarah Vogel on their farm, which is facing foreclosure, North Dakota, 1982
Farmers Randy & Lois Oster speak with lawyer activist
Sarah Vogel on their farm, which is facing foreclosure,
North Dakota, 1982

Born in South Africa, Grey Villet traveled America and the world for LIFE magazine like an observant explorer, mapping its emotional contours in the faces and lives of its people. His in-depth, personal studies of the American scene of the 1950s through the 1970’s illuminated the complex reality of those years with a truth that, in his own words, were "as real as real could get." His images of presidents and revolutionaries, sports heroes, and everyday people struggling for their rights tell an emotional and compelling story of an era that shaped the present.

Grey Villet was born in a sheep herding center called Beaufort West in the Karoo desert of South Africa in 1927. His father expected him to follow him into medicine and Grey was duly enrolled in the pre-med program at Cape Town University. It didn't take; he spent most of his time at a cafe downtown where there was music and a lot of smoke...At about this time his sister's fiancé gave him a camera and that did take...It was the excitement of seeing his own pictures emerge in a friend's dark room that set the course of his life. By the late 1940's, his despairing father sent him to London to study photography---but after a few months Grey left school to earn a meager living doing wedding snaps while living in a trucker's stop hostel. At 20 he landed a job on the Bristol Evening News--and within 2 years had moved up to Reuters International in London on the strength of his newspaper work. At 24 he returned to South Africa and a job at the country's leading newspaper, the Johannesburg Star--but the pomposity of management's objection to his disheveled look after a night of chasing a rough news story decided his future. Already determined to become a "magazine photographer" he quit the Star on the spot and soon set off for New York hoping to land a chance at LIFE. So it was that Grey's Villet’s career with LIFE magazine began in April of 1954. Within a year of being added to LIFE’s legendary roster of photographers in 1955, he won photojournalism’s most prestigious award when he was named Magazine Photographer of the Year. Other honors followed, including multiple firsts from NPPA and Gold from World Press Photo. Villet excelled at LIFE’s acclaimed essay format, which exemplified his mastery of the medium, attesting to his credo that every story be, in his words, "as real as real could get". To achieve this, he generally used only available light and while shooting became as unobtrusive as a "fly on the wall" to allow meaningful moments to emerge naturally from a fluid reality.



The Suicide’s View, New York, 1954 (Pigeon Man)

The Suicide’s View, New York, 1954 (Pigeon Man)

The Last Great Overland Cattle Drive, near Cedar Butte, South Dakota, 1960

The Last Great Overland Cattle Drive, near Cedar Butte, South Dakota, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Cattle Round-up, South Dakato, 1960

Cattle Round-up, South Dakato, 1960



Drag Racing In Moline, Illinois, 1957 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Drag Racing In Moline, Illinois, 1957 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Harry S. truman walking to the 1956 Democratic Convention in Chicago

Harry S. truman walking to the 1956 Democratic Convention in Chicago



A Classic Campaign: Richard Nixon, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

A Classic Campaign: Richard Nixon, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

The Fateful Intervention of Live TV, Kennedy-Nixon Debate, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

The Fateful Intervention of Live TV, Kennedy-Nixon Debate, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Sen. John F. Kennedy and his sisters walking with Gov. Michael V. Di Salle and Gov. Abraham A. Ribicoff, Los Angeles, CA, 1960

Sen. John F. Kennedy and his sisters walking with Gov. Michael V. Di Salle and Gov. Abraham A. Ribicoff, Los Angeles, CA, 1960



John F. Kennedy, California, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

John F. Kennedy, California, 1960 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Fidel Castro, The Dream Persists, 1964 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959

Fidel Castro, The Dream Persists, 1964 - Fidel Castro, Hometown Greetings, 1959



Rebel leader Fidel Castro being cheered by a village crowd on his victorious march to Havana, 1959

Rebel leader Fidel Castro being cheered by a village crowd on his victorious march to Havana, 1959

	Rebel Leader Fidel Castro pitching baseball, Cuba, 1959

Rebel Leader Fidel Castro pitching baseball, Cuba, 1959

Fred Astaire rehearsing for his TV show, 1960

Fred Astaire rehearsing for his TV show, 1960



Sammy Davis Jr.'s comeback , Copa Cabana, New York, 1955

Sammy Davis Jr.'s comeback , Copa Cabana, New York, 1955

Rocky Marciano attacks Archie Moore, 1955

Rocky Marciano attacks Archie Moore, 1955

Sugar Ray Robinson weighs in for a comeback fight in 1955

Sugar Ray Robinson weighs in for a comeback fight in 1955



Championing His Champion, Madison Square   Garden, 1968

Championing His Champion, Madison Square Garden, 1968

Mickey Mantle at bat 1955

Mickey Mantle at bat 1955

The Gang's All Here, Baseball team takes the field

The Gang's All Here, Baseball team takes the field



Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson steals home base against NY Yankees in the 8th inning of the 1st game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, September 28, 1955

Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson steals home base against NY Yankees in the 8th inning of the 1st game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, September 28, 1955

	Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson after stealing home base in the 8th inning of the 1st game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium

Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson after stealing home base in the 8th inning of the 1st game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium

NY Yankee catcher Yogi Berra arguing with the home plate umpire who is walking away after giving the safe sign to Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson's brilliant steal of home base in the 8th inning of th

NY Yankee catcher Yogi Berra arguing with the home plate umpire who is walking away after giving the safe sign to Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson's brilliant steal of home base in the 8th inning of th



Mildred and Richard Loving, King and Queen County, Virginia in April 1965

Mildred and Richard Loving, King and Queen County, Virginia in April 1965

Richard and Mildred Loving laughing and watching television in their living room, King and Queen County, Virginia

Richard and Mildred Loving laughing and watching television in their living room, King and Queen County, Virginia

Mildred and Richard Loving, King and Queen County, Virginia in April 1965

Mildred and Richard Loving, King and Queen County, Virginia in April 1965



Commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, 1971

Commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, 1971

Commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, 1971

Commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, 1971

Gay Liberation, Hollywood, 1971

Gay Liberation, Hollywood, 1971



Martin Luther King at Bus Boycott, Montgomery, Alabama, 1958

Martin Luther King at Bus Boycott, Montgomery, Alabama, 1958

Ernest Green with others

Ernest Green with others

Martin Luther King, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

Martin Luther King, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955



The Joyous Response: Congregation reacts to Rosa Parks, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, December, 1955

The Joyous Response: Congregation reacts to Rosa Parks, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, December, 1955

Rosa Parks, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, December, 1955

Rosa Parks, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, December, 1955

Martin Luther King at Police Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama, 1958

Martin Luther King at Police Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama, 1958



Coma and Compassion, Nurse Judy Strickland, New York, 1971

Coma and Compassion, Nurse Judy Strickland, New York, 1971

Nun's Story, 1962

Nun's Story, 1962

Lost in Time, St. Louis Chronic Hospital, 1959

Lost in Time, St. Louis Chronic Hospital, 1959



Tornado Aftermath, Kansas City, Kansas, 1957

Tornado Aftermath, Kansas City, Kansas, 1957

Sam Mali at gravesites, South Africa, 1982

Sam Mali at gravesites, South Africa, 1982

Louisana pipeline, 1959

Louisana pipeline, 1959



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