Please click on image to pull up enlarged version

I think this image is one of the more complex. Visually, it is sharply focused and the detail is quite beautiful. At first glance, it strikes the eye as very all-American. Four young folks, dressed up and out on the town for a night of diversion. We can recognize the setting: a booth into which two couples squeeze intimately, a Coke and what appears to be a bottle of Jim Beam, the advertisement on the edge of the table affixed against the wall. "3 Ring Time!" it declares in the enthusiastic voice of promotion. The irony signs lend to the image, something Marion plays with various times in the jook joint series, only becomes apparent as we take in the meaning of the announcement, "rooms by nite or week," hanging above the heads of the two young couples. Read in this contrasting way, certain elements of constructedness jump out: the painted eyebrows on the girl on the right; the subtle droop in her stockings, seen below the table; the way you can see their legs uncomfortably crowded together so everyone can rotate for the pose.

This image, along with the corresponding one these couples and their friends posing for a snapshot, features much more interaction between men and women than the images of black jook patrons. In fact, nowhere in the images of black jook joints around Belle Glade do we ever see a scene with couples. Of course it's difficult to know if this was intentional on Marion's part; either the lack of black couples or the defining image of white unison. Interestingly enough, in a collection that Marion worked on of her FSA photography, published by the Friends of Photography in 1983, this photograph of the two white couples is juxtaposed with the image of two black men sitting (#7), unaccompanied by women friends, at a similar booth, in a similar barroom setting. Perhaps this is enough to indicate to us that the contrast occurred to her at some point, even if 40 years later.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001


When you've checked out all the photographs, you may want explore the history of Belle Glade, the area where they were taken. 

You also might want to fill in your reading with some background on what jook joints are about.