“A factual description of The Brown Sisters sounds simple enough: black-and-white photographs of four sisters taken over a period of time. However, when you see these images together as a group, they have a remarkable impact. Over a period of thirty years, Nixon has transformed the idea of the dreaded family photo into something powerfully intimate, even epic. You don’t need a lot of art jargon to explain what these works are about. They are about lives lived, and the two things that most of us obsess about: relationships and time.”
Nixon’s series, taken with an 8 x 10 inch view camera, involves a number of intentional constraints. The sisters always appear in the same order from left to right: Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie. The portrait is usually taken outside in natural light, in or around Boston. Although he shoots a number of 8 x 10 inch negatives, Nixon selects only one a year to work from, making a contact print to give the greatest amount of detail.
The systematic progression of images within these specified parameters exposes a visual record of not only the relationships between the sisters, but also the sisters’ relationship with Nixon and his camera. From the first photograph in 1975 to the most recent portrait, dated 2005, the viewer witnesses the sisters’ growing familiarity with the camera, as well as the effects of a lifetime of events on their relationships with each other. The embraces and expressions of the sisters convey the story of the thirty-one years of their lives. While some events in the sisters’ lives are obvious, such as pregnancy, others are less apparent and are open to interpretation.
This is just a breathtaking series of photographs, Completely made my day.