Picture Perfect (11/08/2001)

Gay and Herb, a long-married couple from Arlington, Va., are subjects of Robert Fass’ photographic project.Manhattan photographer focuses on couples with longevity.

Robert Fass has traveled from Maine to Hawaii the last five years in search of couples willing to reveal their secrets for staying married at least four decades.

“No two stories are alike,” says the Manhattan-based photographer, actor and writer. “But although every story is different, there’s something inspirational about the commitment, stability and loyalty that all these couples demonstrate.”

His photography project, titled “As Long As We Both Shall Live: Long-Married Couples in America,” can best be described as a labor of love for Fass sparked by the passing of his father. It was on display recently at the Hebrew Home For The Aged in Riverdale.

Fass, 43, had taken pictures of his parents four months before his father died, and he exhibited them at the memorial service.

“People had a strong response to the photographs, as I did,” says Fass. “And a couple of months later, another couple asked if I would do portraits of them.”

Having photographed 20 couples from various racial, economic and religious communities, Fass is seeking 30 more for a book he’s working on with an agent. His project has just been accepted into the fiscal sponsorship program of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Noting how “everything is contingent on funding,” Fass remains hopeful that his book will have wide-ranging appeal, especially since “I’m trying to cover as many perspectives as possible.”

Fass says he has received e-mails on his Web site, http://www.longmarriedcouples.com, “from people all over the world who tell me their stories.” The e-mails and his photographed subjects hail from a “certain time when by and large marriage was what you did and there was a stigma attached to divorce. This is the last generation to treat marriage as an indissoluble bond,” says Fass.

Fass is particularly moved that the 20 couples, one of whom has been married for nearly 70 years, welcomed him into their homes.

“They opened up to a stranger and that’s taking a risk,” he says. “I don’t take that for granted. I find tremendous value in these people and in their stories. I love them all.”

Susan Josephs

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