Detroit-born, portraiture photographer Nicholas Nixon, creates awe-inspiring work, portraying his wife and her three sisters over the span of 41 years.
He is also known for his documentary photography as well as for championing the use of the 11×14 inch view camera.
As I was watching the MoMA interview with Nixon, linked below, I thought how rare it is to see such a unique, yet unpretentious figure working in the art field.
The infinite wisdom that he has acquired throughout his life shines from his work. His photographs do not let you be. They grab you by your shoulders and shake you up from your numbness and despondency.
It is not a coincidence that his ‘Brown Sisters’ series has so much strength to it. He got to know his subjects succinctly throughout the span of 40 years of working with them. Their confidence, youth, stubbornness, beauty, they are all contained in the film grains.
“When did you first start taking pictures of people?” asks the reporter.
His choice of words is also one of the traits to reveal a genius in matter. He gives an answer which informs us both of his work and of his intelligence.
“1976, I was finishing Austin Views, the pictures people call topographic (see: New Topographics) and I got tired of it.”
“Day by day, people started to creep in”
People started to creep in. What he is trying to say is that he allowed his subject matter to happen to him, instead of trying to purposefully cause an artificial spontaneity.
By giving himself time to get to know his character, he also caused time to sharpen his eye and vision to the best of their ability.
In regards to his Brown Sisters series he says:” I used the same camera, every year, 8×10 and they stood in the same order.”
“The only thing I really ever say is, get closer, if the space between them is borring.”
The subject being so close to the lense, and almost populating all of the dead space between them and the camera, creates an overwhelming feeling of intimacy and a sense of shared history between the spectator and the subject matter.
I don’t want to spoil the thing by talking about it too much. I think that you should see the photos for yourselves and see how they make you feel. Observe the feeling. Stay with it.