In 1975, when the photographer of these images, Nicholas Nixon, and his wife (third from left) were visiting his wife’s family, he photographed her and her three other sisters, using his 8 x 10 inch view camera. In 1976, they were together again for a graduation of one of the sisters and Nixon asked that they stand in the same order for another photograph. Then it became a yearly event. Each year one of the sisters was able to determine where and when the photograph would be taken. Each time the Brown sisters wore whatever they felt like wearing. No preplanning regarding wardrobe or pose ever occurred.
These photographs are clear evidence of the inexorable and inevitable march of time. In fact, Nixon says, “Everyone won’t be here forever.” These images are ripe with the nuance of the sisters’ relationships as well. Even Nixon’s shadow in a couple of the photographs provides a kind of yearning on his part to be a part of this group. Seeing these haunting images altogether portrays a poignancy to aging but also demonstrates the Brown sisters’ resiliency to the vicissitudes of time through a deepening of relationship, including their relationship with the photographer. These family portraits of the Brown sisters reflect a powerful intimacy and stunning genuineness which connect to all of our humanity.
Nixon’s photographs are in the collections of many museums including the Museum of Modern Art and the Met in New York, The National Gallery of Art in DC, Los Angeles County Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
All photographs by Nicholas Nixon/Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.