Family gatherings can be very boring, exhausting, and exhausting at times. During one of his visits to his in-laws, photographer Nicholas Nixon had the idea to do something special, he saw his wife and his sisters as inspiration. None of them had any idea how things would unfold over the next 4 decades!
Nixon was bored at a family dinner at his in-laws’ house. He then decided to do something about it. Not a bad idea … is it? He asked his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters if it was okay to photograph them posing in the garden. Take a look at the rest of the impressive and moving photos on the next page.
The sisters didn’t notice that Nixon was just bored, so they just stood around and posed for the camera. They stood side by side, shoulders close together, while the photographer took the photos. As you can see, the photos turned out very nice and professional. Nixon, the sisters, and his wife really liked the photo and decided to repeat the same photo every year during their family celebration. The exact same filter should be used and they should be in the same arrangement. Basically, the first photo was taken in 1974, but unfortunately, nothing came of it, so they didn’t start documenting it until 1975.
This simple idea of Nixon’s nevertheless attracted the attention of a number of prominent artists and major cultural institutions. Nixon gained widespread recognition for his work through an exhibition of his work in New York at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The name of the exhibition was “Nicholas Nixon; 40 Years of the Brown Sisters.” Although he had begun taking the photos in 1974, he didn’t reveal any of it until 2014. It’s incredible what the rest of the photos look like, you can find them on the next page!
The photojournalism that Nixon did was born out of boredom, as Nixon recounted in an interview. “Normally we used to go to Bebe’s parents’ house on weekends, and that was getting boring. The obligatory eating together and chatting. So I suggested we do something new and fun, and that was photography.” When they started taking pictures, Heather was 23, Mimi was 15, Bebe was 25 and Laurie was 21, which was the perfect age to document the change in aging. Curious about 1981? Then be eager to see the next page.
Nicholas Nixon had two children with his wife Bebe. This was not a secret, because she was his wife, but the life of the other sisters was not known. People looked into the eyes of the sisters and became curious about their lives, who they were. Of course, this is understandable, this is just human instinct. Although people did not know the women, they became curious and some even felt a kind of resemblance to the Brown sisters
The women didn’t change much each year, I think that’s one of the reasons everyone was so interested in the pictures. The photo below from 1986 is a special one because the Brown sisters are not looking serious in this photo, they are mostly looking straight into the camera. In this photo, they are smiling a little bit, as if something funny happened, or Nixon, the photographer smiled at them. Viewers thought this was a nice change from the usually somber look they showed in the photos.
The most fascinating thing about the photos is, of course, to see how the ladies age during these 40 years. Besides the natural changes in the faces and skin, you can also see how the clothes change. You don’t think about it yourself, but when it’s so clear in a photo, you see it immediately
The characteristic of this project is, of course, that the photos were deliberately avoided make-up and styling. The result is that the photos are as pure as possible. The sisters came along quite naturally in their everyday clothes. They also didn’t put on makeup for the photos. Of course, the photos are more interesting because they show bags under the eyes and crow’s feet. “We just wore whatever we felt like wearing that day,” BeBe says.
Of course, there were a number of preconditions for the Brown sisters before they took the photo. The conditions were that the photo should be as pure, real, and natural as possible. The viewer doesn’t have to make much of an effort to notice this, all the photos have a kind of serene calm in them and the women pose as they feel at that moment and who they are: no “made” smile or special attire
Did you notice that Heather, Mimi, and BeBe often have the same facial expressions in photos? Whereas Laurie is often the one with a particular pose or expression. Over the years, you will notice a feeling of fear, sadness, and tension in her. But this year it seems that she is happy with everything again. That is of course our opinion and we hope she had a peaceful and happy life.
For 40 years the Brown sisters and Nixon have been making beautiful pictures. After 40 years, the sisters thought it was enough and decided to stop. This perfect picture is the conclusion of the beautiful series and a fine work of art. The sisters can look back on their paintings and together with Nixon they are very happy about this beautiful piece of art!