Object Image

The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts

In 1975, Nicholas Nixon made a photograph of his wife, Bebe, with her three sisters at a Brown family gathering, which became the starting point for one of the most remarkable portrait series of our time. He has continued to photograph the Brown sisters, lined up in the same order, every year since. Working with an eight-by-ten-inch view camera, Nixon contact-prints his negatives directly onto the photographic paper to capture the maximum possible detail.

Technically superb, Nixon's photographs echo the norms of the family snapshot, whose making has become, in his word, "an annual rite of passage" for himself and his subjects alike. Revealing nothing of their identities, Nixon offers instead a meditation on time. The portrait series speak poignantly of the Brown sisters' enduring relatedness, and by extension references that of our own among our families, our communities, and as humans relating to the world.

Credit: Gift of Nion McEvoy in memory of Nan Tucker McEvoy

2009
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.4cm
2015.33.35
Text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023
Image: Nicholas Nixon, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Where you'll find this

Smithsonian American Art Museum