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More Than Skin Deep: 4 Sisters Over the Years

How this photo series shows the march of time


Each year for 40 years, Nicholas Nixon has photographed his wife and her three sisters, always lined up in the same order. The resulting series of black-and-white photographs shows the inevitable march of time, as the sisters’ unlined faces and fierce expressions soften and deepen; as their stances change from individual, distant, almost surly, to entwined, loving and protective.

All 40 portraits of the Brown Sisters  — Heather, Mimi, Bebe (Nixon’s wife) and Laurie  — have been displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. If you missed the show, you can see the gathered images in MoMA’s book,  Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters. 40 Years.

Much has been written about the photographs, but perhaps the best summary comes from MoMA: “These silent records, with their countless shades of visual and emotional gray, can promote a new appreciation of an intangible part of (the world): the world of time and age, of commitment and love.”

Here, the artist speaks about his work:

Nicholas Nixon–The Brown Sisters from Fraenkel Gallery on Vimeo.

Nicholas Nixon. The Brown Sisters, Harwich Port, Massachusetts. 1978.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund @ 2014 Nicholas Nixon

Nicholas Nixon. The Brown Sisters, Wellesley, Massachusetts. 1988.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Family of Man Fund @ 2014 Nicholas Nixon

Nicholas Nixon. The Brown Sisters, Brookline, Massachusetts. 1999.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist @ 2014 Nicholas Nixon

Nicholas Nixon. The Brown Sisters, Wellfleet, Massachusetts. 2014.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Cornelius N. Bliss Memorial Fund @ 2014 Nicholas Nixon

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