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Nicholas Nixon
Nicholas Nixon

Nicholas Nixon

Country: United States
Birth: 1947

Nicholas Nixon is an American photographer, born in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan, known for his work in portraiture and documentary photography. Influenced by the photographs of Edward Weston and Walker Evans, he began working with large-format cameras. Whereas most professional photographers had abandoned these cameras in favor of shooting on 35 mm film with more portable cameras, Nixon preferred the format because it allowed prints to be made directly from the large format negatives, retaining the clarity and integrity of the image. Nixon has said "When photography went to the small camera and quick takes, it showed thinner and thinner slices of time, [unlike] early photography where time seemed non-changing. I like greater chunks, myself. Between 30 seconds and a thousand of a second the difference is very large."

His first solo exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art curated by John Szarkowski in 1976. Nixon’s early city views taken of Boston and New York in the mid-seventies were exhibited at one of the most influential exhibitions of the decade, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House in 1975. In the late nineties, Nixon returned to this subject matter to document Boston’s changing urban landscape during the Big Dig highway development project. In 1976, 1980, and 1987, Nixon was awarded National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowships. In 1977 and 1986, he was awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

Nixon's subjects include schoolchildren and schools in and around Boston, people living along the Charles River near Boston and Cambridge as well as cities in the South, his family and himself, people in nursing homes, the blind, sick, and dying people, and the intimacy of couples. Nixon is also well known for his work People With AIDS, which began in 1987. Nixon recorded his subjects with meticulous detail in order to facilitate a connection between the viewer and the subject.

In 1975, Nixon began his project, The Brown Sisters consisting of a single portrait of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters each year, consistently posed in the same left to right order. As of 2020, there are forty-six portraits altogether. The series has been shown at the St. Louis Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth the National Gallery of Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. In 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston organized the exhibition Nicholas Nixon: Family Album which included The Brown Sisters series among other portraits of his wife Bebe, himself and his children Sam and Clementine.

Source: Wikipedia


Nicholas Nixon is known for the ease and intimacy of his black and white large format photographs. Nixon has photographed porch life in the rural south, schools in and around Boston, cityscapes, sick and dying people, and the intimacy of couples. Recording his subjects close and with meticulous detail, he facilitates an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject.

In 1975, he began an ongoing series, The Brown Sisters, an annual portrait of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters unchangingly posed in the same order. This seminal project has been the subject of multiple publications and exhibitions.

In Summer 2013, Nixon’s book Close Far was released by Steidl. The body of work explores the self in physical and psychological proximity to the urban landscape. On the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s The Brown Sisters series, in 2014, the complete sequence of images was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and re-published in an anniversary catalogue. In 2017, Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid opened a comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to date, accompanied by a catalogue illustrating over 200 images, and the ICA Boston mounted a chronological retrospective exhibition. In 2021, Galerie Le Château d’Eau in Toulouse mounted an ambitious survey exhibition, accompanied by an expanded catalogue.

Source: Fraenkel Gallery


 

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1954
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Meanwhile, a horrified young Marion and Helen were witnessing the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Europe. Of their friends, again many were musicians, artists, and young intellectuals. Many also were Jewish, and Marion watched as swastikas burned in front of the homes of her anti-Nazi friends, and their fields and fences were set ablaze. She was further rocked by the assassination, during the winter of 1933-34, of Austrian Chancelor Dolfuss and the bombing of apartments of socialist workers near Vienna. Lending a hand, she spent several months working in the local schools with the children of Austrian workers. It was too dangerous, however, for her to stay; the University of Vienna had been closed, and Marion was told either to return home or give up her small allowance. Back in the States, she took a teaching position at the progressive Hessian Hills School at Croton-on-Hudson. Here she began taking more photographs and making her first prints. Close to New York, she also became active in the League Against War and Fascism, and, together with Helen, helped Jews, including Trude Fleischmann, leave Europe and immigrate to the United States. She had friends in the socially and politically concerned Group Theatre who became both subjects and clients, and she published her first work in Stage Magazine. Encouraged by her progress, a year later, at twenty-five, Marion moved to New York and began freelancing, even landing a picture on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. She also began attending meetings of the New York Photo League, an important organization that was influencing many of the country's best young photographers. There Marion met Ralph Steiner and Paul Strand who, upon seeing her work, asked her to join a group of serious young photographers who met at Steiner's apartment to discuss and critique each other's photography.(...) Needing more certain wages, Marion accepted a position as a staff photographer for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. As a young woman, however, she was required to do stories on the latest fashion and events for the ladies' page, hardly compelling assignments for a young woman of 25 with her background and experiences! Mentioning her frustrations to Ralph Steiner one day, he took her portfolio with him to Washington, to Roy Stryker, head of the Farm Security Administration. Stryker was impressed, asked to meet her. So, armed with letters of recommendation from no less than Paul Strand and Ralph Steiner, Marion Post set off for Washington. She was hired immediately, and joined the ranks of the other FSA photographers, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, and Arthur Rothstein, among them. From 1938 through 1941, Marion produced many of the most vividly moving of the more than 100,000 images in the FSA archives, reflecting her many years of social and political involvement, her strength and independence, and her deep sensitivity to the children and families of the less fortunate. The Farm Security Administration had been mandated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to assist American farmers who had suffered grievously during the Depression. Families were stranded and starving; soil was worn out, unfit for production.(...) Segregation and discrimination; humiliation and condescension; labor movements; eroded, worn-out land; dirty, sick, malnourished children; overcrowded schools. She traveled primarily alone, got tired and lonely and sick and burned out. She had to wrap her camera in hot water bottles to keep the shutters from freezing; write captions at night in flimsy motel rooms while fending off the men trying to enter through the transoms; deal with southern social workers, suspicious cops, chiggers and mosquitoes; mud, heat, and humidity.(...) In 1941, Marion met the man she wanted to marry--Lee Wolcott, a handsome, bright assistant to Henry Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture under President Roosevelt. Marion completed her assignments and left the FSA in order to raise a family, tend their farms, and later to live and travel extensively overseas. Both passionate, eager, curious, intellectual, they developed interesting modern art and music collections; had interesting, involved friends; were deeply committed to the raising and educating of four accomplished children, and with mentoring their grandchildren. Although she did not again work as a "professional," largely due to the demands of family and overseas living and traveling, she captured numerous serious images of farming in rural Virginia, and later in Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Upon returning to the States, she taught and photographed American Indian children in New Mexico, did a series on the ‘70’s counter-culture in Isla Vista, California, and in Mendocino, California. She also was actively involved with the photography communities in both San Francisco and Santa Barbara where she helped, encouraged, and inspired, and was loved by many younger artists, worked with museum and gallery curators, and, in the 80’s, at the urging of the same, undertook a massive project to produce an archive of fine prints of her work of both the FSA and later years.(...) Letter from Paul Strand "Dear RoyIt gives me pleasure to give this note of introduction to Marion Post because I know her work well. She is a young photographer of considerable experience who has made a number of very good photographs on social themes in the South and elsewhere... I feel that if you have any place for a conscientious and talented photographer, you will do well to give her an opportunity."--Paul Strand 6-20-38 Marion's favorite image "I guess if I had to pick one, just one, favorite image, it would be the Negro Man Going Up the Stairs of the Movie Theatre. I think it says the most about me, about what I was trying to do and trying to say." (Conversation with her daughter, Linda)
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