In the summer of 1975, Nicholas Nixon took a picture of his girlfriend, Bebe, and her three sisters at a family celebration. One year later, at one of the sisters’ graduation parties, he took another photograph of the four women, and another every year since—over half a lifetime. His work tells the story of a moment, of transience, and of the sisters’ changing relationships to each other. As such, it also narrates the story of the essence of photography. The group picture becomes steeped in déjà-vu; the series of images becomes visible as passed time. The same is true for Nixon’s other pieces. Invariably black-and-white, they document the constants of being human: life and death, love and loss, stasis and change, being and ceasing to be.
His pictures from Boston, New York, and Cambridge in the 1970s and 1980s are sociograms of their time, just like his series of portraits showing the aged and the sick, or his photographs of AIDS patients. Nixon’s pieces are reserved, yet never lacking in intimacy, precision, and compositional care. They treat moments continually, depicting times past and form a continuum.