Nick (Nixon)

6 Mar

Some years back I saw a film entitled Smoke with Harvey Keitel and William Hurt. I don’ t remember much about it except that Keitel portrays a smoke shop owner. Every day, he crosses the street, sets up a camera on a tripod, at the intersection adjacent to his shop and photographs his store front. For fifteen years.

Now this project raised some questions — mainly around the notion of the value of Keitel’s effort and the valence of what was created. Viewing Keitel’s subject (the store front) did not immediately spark the thought that, ‘wow, that would make an interesting photograph.” In any case, photographer Nicholas Nixon, has every year for the past forty photographed his wife Bebe and her three sisters. The results have been made public in a number of iterations. There was the exhibition of the photos at the Museum of Modern Art (November 22, 2014-January 2, 2015)

The Brown Sisters: Forty Years by Nicholas Nixon

The Brown Sisters: Forty Years by Nicholas Nixon

And then there was the New York Times Magazine which featured a a full gallery of the black and white images. And, of course, there is the hard cover monograph Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters. Forty Years(The Museum of Modern Art, New York ) with an afterword by exhibition curator Sarah Hermanson Meister. The publisher’s notes are clear

In August 1974, the photographer Nicholas Nixon made a group portrait of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters, Heather, Mimi and Laurie–the Brown sisters. He did not keep that image, but in 1975 he made another portrait of the four, who then ranged in age from 15 to 25. Working with an 8 x 10-inch view camera, whose large negatives capture a wealth of detail and a luscious continuity of tone, Nixon did the same in 1976, and this second successful photograph prompted him to suggest to the sisters that they assemble for a portrait every year. The women agreed and have gathered for an annual portrait ever since. Nicholas Nixon: 40 Years of the Brown Sisters celebrates the 40th anniversary of the series with luminous tritone reproductions of all 40 portraits and a new afterword which examines the series’ public exhibitions, critical reception, and cult following. Like the previous editions of the series, published in 1999 and 2008 for its 25th and 33rd anniversaries (both out of print),Nicholas Nixon: 40 Years of the Brown Sisters is a milestone in an ongoing project that we hope will continue for many years to come.

The Brown Sisters (courtesy of the Fraenkel Gallery)

The Brown Sisters (courtesy of the Fraenkel Gallery)

Here Nicholas Nixon says some smart things about taking pictures


Currently reading The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (Putnam)

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