Marriage in the House of Divorce


Rober Frank

City Hall, Reno, Nevada, 1956 © Robert Frank

In this depiction of a newlywed husband and wife, Robert Frank captures the joy at the very beginnings of a marriage. The man and woman immediately grab the eye of the viewer, in illuminated by the bright decorative tile behind them. The focus of the image is undeniably on the faces of the couple, which convey the real emotion expressed to outward. Looking further, the man’s arms wrapped around his wife, expressing emotion inward.

The scene itself is ironic as it was taken in Reno in 1956, a time when Reno was famous for its less stringent divorce laws. People would travel to the city from around the country to end their marriages. In fact, “I’m going to Reno” was another way of saying “I’m going to divorce my husband”. Frank’s contrast of marriage in the country’s capital of divorce is interesting during a time when Jews were still very much in the rubble of the Holocaust. Families had been destroyed, millions had moved around the world to escape the oppression, and the entire population was slowly rebuilding their lives in a new country. Only a decade after the end of WWII, Americans had seemingly forgotten the horror of the previous ten years. Instead, the place in which Frank stood was a temple to the voluntary dismantling of family. However, one couple defied the trend, deciding to enter into a bond instead of break one. Frank captures this moment as recognition that family deserves honor, rather than be disregarded without thought.