Nicholas Nixon

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Nicholas Nixon
Born (1947-10-27) October 27, 1947 (age 76)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
University of New Mexico
Known forPhotography, Arts Educator
Notable workThe Brown Sisters
MovementDocumentary photography
SpouseBebe Brown

Nicholas Nixon (born October 27, 1947) is an American photographer, known for his work in portraiture and documentary photography, and for using the 8×10 inch view camera.


Nixon was born in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan.

Influenced by the photographs of Edward Weston and Walker Evans, he began working with large-format cameras. Whereas most professional photographers had abandoned these cameras in favor of shooting on 35 mm film with more portable cameras, Nixon preferred the format because it allowed prints to be made directly from the large format negatives, retaining the clarity and integrity of the image. Nixon has said "When photography went to the small camera and quick takes, it showed thinner and thinner slices of time, [unlike] early photography where time seemed non-changing. I like greater chunks, myself. Between 30 seconds and a thousand of a second the difference is very large."[1]

His first solo exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art curated by John Szarkowski in 1976.[2] Nixon’s early city views taken of Boston and New York in the mid-seventies were exhibited at one of the most influential exhibitions of the decade, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House in 1975. In the late nineties, Nixon returned to this subject matter to document Boston’s changing urban landscape during the Big Dig highway development project. In 1976, 1980, and 1987, Nixon was awarded National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowships.[citation needed] In 1977 and 1986, he was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships.[citation needed]

Nixon's subjects include schoolchildren and schools in and around Boston, people living along the Charles River near Boston and Cambridge as well as cities in the South, his family and himself, people in nursing homes, the blind, sick and dying people, and the intimacy of couples. Nixon is also well known for his work People With AIDS, begun in 1987. Nixon recorded his subjects with meticulous detail in order to facilitate a connection between the viewer and the subject.

In 1975, Nixon began his project, The Brown Sisters consisting of a single portrait of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters each year, consistently posed in the same left to right order. As of 2021, there are forty-seven portraits altogether. The series has been shown at the St. Louis Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth the National Gallery of Art, KBr Photography Center, Fundación MAPFRE in Barcelona, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. In 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston organized the exhibition "Nicholas Nixon: Family Album" which included "The Brown Sisters" series among other portraits of his wife Bebe, himself and his children Sam and Clementine.

In 2021, The Galerie le Château d’Eau presented the first major exhibition of Nixon’s work in France, an ambitious survey accompanied by an expanded catalog.

Nixon gained a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1969 and an M.F.A from the University of New Mexico in 1975. He worked as a part-time professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design from 1975 until March 2018.

Allegations of inappropriate behavior[edit]

On March 22, 2018, Nixon retired from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in mid-semester just after an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior was announced. The investigation focuses on whether his conduct violated Title IX rules. The Boston Globe has also been investigating the professor since the beginning of 2018 for claims of sexual harassment. The paper interviewed more than a dozen former students who claimed the photographer asked undergraduate students to pose nude for him and made vulgar remarks in a classroom setting.[3][4]

On April 12, 2018, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston decided to close an exhibition of Nixon's photographs ten days early after the museum earlier said they would keep the exhibition on view following the report by the Boston Globe. Nixon asked the museum to cancel the exhibit immediately.[5] In 2021, the suit was settled, resolving the formal complaints against Nixon.


  • Photographs From One Year (1983)
  • Pictures of People (1988)
  • People With AIDS (with Bebe Nixon) (1991)
  • School (1998)
  • The Brown Sisters (2002)
  • Nicholas Nixon Photographs (2003)
  • Home (2005)
  • The Brown Sisters, Thirty-three Years (2007)
  • Live Love Look Last (2009)
  • Close Far (2013)
  • Forty Portraits in Forty Years (2014)
  • About Forty Years (2015)
  • Closing the Distance (2021)


  • Nicholas Nixon: Pictures of People, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, 1989
  • Human Experience: Photographs by Nicholas Nixon, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, 2001
  • Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters 1975-2008, The Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 2009
  • Nicholas Nixon: Family Album, Museum of Fine Art Boston, July 28, 2010 – May 1, 2011[6]
  • Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of The Brown Sisters, Museum of Modern Art, Nov 22, 2014 – Jan 4, 2015[7]
  • Nicholas Nixon. Fundacion Mapfre, Madrid, September 14, 2017 – January 7, 2018, traveling to C/O Berlin, Berlin, Germany and Fondation A Stichting, Brussels, Belgium
  • Nicholas Nixon: Persistence of Vision, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2018[5][8]
  • Nicholas Nixon: Un Infime Distance, Galerie Le Chateau D’eau, Toulouse, France, November 3, 2021– January 16, 2022


  • 1976, 1980, 1987: National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship
  • 1977, 1986: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship[9]
  • 1982: ‘New Works’ Grant, Massachusetts Council of the Arts
  • 1988: Friends of Photography Peer Award
  • 2000: George Gund Foundation Fellowship



  1. ^ Durrell, Jane (2005-04-06). "Photographer Nicholas Nixon pays attention to form". Archived from the original on 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2007-07-11.
  2. ^ "Longer Views: 40 Photographs by Nick Nixon | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  3. ^ Lazar, Kay; Gay, Malcolm (2018-04-04). "Sex, power, and photography. At MassArt, how far is too far?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  4. ^ Lazar, Kay; Gay, Malcolm (2018-03-24). "Renowned photographer abruptly retires as MassArt investigates alleged misconduct". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  5. ^ a b Gay, Malcolm (2018-04-13). "ICA to close show by controversial photographer Nicholas Nixon". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  6. ^ "Nicholas Nixon". Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  7. ^ "Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of The Brown Sisters | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  8. ^ "At the ICA, 'The Brown Sisters' and much more from Nicholas Nixon - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  9. ^ "Nicholas Nixon". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  10. ^ "Nicholas Nixon". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  11. ^ "Nicholas Nixon". Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  12. ^ "Off Longwood Avenue, Boston - DMA Collection Online". Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  13. ^ "Nicholas Nixon - Search the Collection, National Gallery of Australia". National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 2022-10-27.
  14. ^ "The Brown Sisters, Allston, Massachusetts". Saint Louis Art Museum. Retrieved 2022-10-27.

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