Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Sisters Forty Portraits in Forty Years

I first wrote about this as 25 years, but I haven’t been blogging for 15 years, and somehow now the story is 40 years, confused. However this is a fabulous longterm project that we could all undertake with our own families. In fact I don’t understand why more people don’t it is a wonderful record and fascinating in the changes the pictures show from faces with ageing,  posing and attitude, hairstyles, and clothes. It is a family record and a measure of our times. I found this most recent article in The New York Times I have just chosen the 10 year anniversaries, go and look at the intervening years here

05thebrownsisters_ss-slide-ZKLJ-jumbo

1975, New Canaan, Conn.

The Brown sisters have been photographed every year since 1975. The latest image in the series is published here for the first time….

Nicholas Nixon was visiting his wife’s family when, “on a whim,” he said, he asked her and her three sisters if he could take their picture. It was summer 1975, and a black-and-white photograph of four young women — elbows casually attenuated, in summer shorts and pants, standing pale and luminous against a velvety background of trees and lawn — was the result. A year later, at the graduation of one of the sisters, while readying a shot of them, he suggested they line up in the same order. After he saw the image, he asked them if they might do it every year. “They seemed O.K. with it,” he said; thus began a project that has spanned almost his whole career. The series, which has been shown around the world over the past four decades, will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, coinciding with the museum’s publication of the book “The Brown Sisters: Forty Years” in November.

Who are these sisters? We’re never told (though we know their names: from left, Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie; Bebe, of the penetrating gaze, is Nixon’s wife). The human impulse is to look for clues, but soon we dispense with our anthropological scrutiny — Irish? Yankee, quite likely, with their decidedly glamour-neutral attitudes — and our curiosity becomes piqued instead by their undaunted stares. All four sisters almost always look directly at the camera, as if to make contact, even if their gazes are guarded or restrained. Text by SUSAN MINOT

05thebrownsisters_ss-slide-WACI-tmagSF

1985, Allston, Mass.

05thebrownsisters_ss-slide-E0KH-tmagSF

1995, Marblehead, Mass.

05thebrownsisters_ss-slide-UGH2-tmagSF-1

2005, Cataumet, Mass.

05thebrownsisters_ss-slide-YT27-superJumbo

this is the latest in the series 2014, Wellfleet, Mass.

Read the rest of the article and see all the pictures here

All photographs by Nicholas Nixon/Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

Advertisements

2 responses to “Sisters Forty Portraits in Forty Years

  1. Jane Buekett October 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I think it is an incredible project – deceptively simple and, over time, deeply moving. I have the earlier book but hadn’t seen the latest pictures. Ageing – what can you say?

  2. oxfordschoolofphotography October 7, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Jane I think ageing is fine after all the more birthdays you have the longer you live?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: