Nicholas Nixon, who teaches at Massachusetts College of Art, is one of the most celebrated American photographers of our generation. Among the most compelling of his series of photographs are the portraits he has made of his close-knit family which, taken over time, explore the nature of long-committed relationships.
His Brown Sisters series features an ongoing sequence of celebrated portraits of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters; Heather, Mimi and Laurie. Taken annually, beginning in 1975, the unpretentious black and white portraits of the Brown Sisters reveal gradual changes in their appearances and shifts in their relationships over the past 37 years.
above: the first formal portrait of the four sisters in which Heather was 23, Mimi was 15, Bebe was 25, and Laurie was 21
Nixon says of the project "I really try hard to make the pictures as interesting formally as I possibly can. One of my clear visual tricks is that I like open sky, cause I love to see the shapes of their heads, and I like to play around with the intervals in between them.
I take probably a dozen each year. They tell me what their favorites are, and what they dislike. But then I choose. I try to be as open with what they say as possible. In fact, I love to know what they think.
Being an only child, it was really gratifying and lovely to be embraced by this family. There's still a ground water of affection, and support. I look back at these thirty-some pictures and it's like they're of my sisters. I can feel myself getting old with them. And I'm part of them; they're part of my love. "
Using a large eight-by-ten-inch view camera positioned at eye level, he always photographs the women in the same order from left to right: Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie. And will continue to do so.
The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon from 1975 through 2012:
information and images courtesy of the following sources: MoMA, The National Gallery of Art,
Nicholas Nixon is represented by The Fraenkel Gallery
Nicholas Nixon Photography Books
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