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.
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