© Bill Stettner, 1963, 'The Double Face'
“Martin Luther King had just been assassinated, as had Kennedy. America was a racial mess. Sure, people were talking about racial integration – as though things had changed. But just below the surface it was as it had always been – all the bigotry and hatred. I suppose my most satisfying image is the double face - but most people never understood it.
I wanted to make a picture that made the point that underneath it all, we’re all the same. I wanted to take a picture of ordinary blue-collar workers – a sort of Avedon close up – using a black man for one half of the face, and a white man for the other – so that the black man looked like the shadow side of the white man’s face.
These days this would simple with computers - but back in 1963 it all had to be done in the camera. I had a huge casting session that went on for ever, and eventually , shot 36 sheets of 5” x 4” film of the white guy – cross lit from the right. At this stage I hadn’t found a black face that matched and I didn’t for quite a while – in fact the film stayed untouched in the slide holders for two months.
Most of the art directors who saw this portrait thought it was some weird white guy with a fat lip, and threw the print into the bin! When I explained it to them, they got embarrassed and didn’t want to talk about it. It definitely wasn’t a commercial success!” (Bill Stettner)