The ‘Brown Sisters’ 40 Year Photo Sequence- The Journey Of Life

Published on 12/03/2018
ADVERTISEMENT


In the year 1975, the Brown sisters had their photograph taken…and they have done so every year since. Annually, wherever they may be, the the four sisters get together for their yearly tradition. The series has documented 43 years to date, exceptionally displaying the beauty of aging, and the bond and love of sisterhood. Titled “The Brown Sisters”, the collection has garnered vast interest on a worldwide scale. Not only is it published as a book, it is also featured in many museums and gallery exhibitions across the world.

1975- New Canaan, CT

The first photo of the series was taken during a family holiday in 1975. Interestingly enough, the photographer, Nicholas Nixon took one the year before, but was not happy with the outcome. From left to right, Heather: 23, Mimi: 15, Bebe: 25, Laurie: 21.

1975 New Canaan CT

1975- New Canaan, CT

1976- Hartford, CT

This photo is epic…all four sisters are wearing a dress! Nixon said this was one of the only times he saw not one of them wearing pants. This photo was taken at Laurie’s college graduation. Bebe and Laurie look less than thrilled that their dresses are almost the exact same…oops!

1976 Hartford CT

1976- Hartford, CT

1977- Cambridge, MA

Their poses may vary, but their order stays the same in each photograph. The series has much more of an impact with the women staying in the same position each year.

1977 Cambridge MA

1977- Cambridge, MA

1978- Harwich Port, MA

It was extremely evident in the first photo that Mimi (second from the left) and Bebe (second from the right) had a 10 year age gap. But now, as the women age, the age disparity is becoming less and less evident.

1978 Harwich Port MA

1978- Harwich Port, MA

1979- Marblehead, MA

Fun Fact: the photographer, Nicholas Nixon, is the husband of Bebe (second from the right)!

1979 Marblehead MA

1979- Marblehead, MA

1980- East Greenwich, R.I.

Nick was visiting his wife’s family one summer day, just a few weeks after purchasing a new camera. On a whim, he asked Bebe and her three sisters if they would mind if he photographed them.

1980 East Greenwich R.I.

1980- East Greenwich, R.I.

1981- Cincinnati, OH

A year later, at Laurie’s graduation, Nixon had them line up in the same order for a shot. He saw the potential for a series, and asked if they would continue the tradition each year. The rest is history…he began a project that has spanned his entire career!

1981 Cincinnati OH

1981- Cincinnati, OH

1982- Ipswich, MA

Nixon (being an only child) claims he not only gained a wife when marrying Bebe, but he also gained three sisters. He was quoted saying, “I have always been particularly intrigued by the sisterly unit”. His admiration for the sisterly bond is evident in his photographs.

1982 Ipswich MA

1982- Ipswich, MA

1983- Allston, MA

The series is exceptionally unique due to the fact that the women don’t prepare for the photographs at all, they wear whatever they happened to put on that morning. They don’t coordinate or try to look a certain way, it is all very organic. Bebe Nixon says, “We just wear what we feel like wearing that day.”

1983 Allston MA

1983- Allston, MA

1984- Truro, MA

1984 differs from the previous years because the backdrop is the sea, opposed to the wooded landscapes we usually see.

1984 Truro MA

1984- Truro, MA

1985- Allston, MA

The sisters made it clear from the beginning that they wanted their identities to be kept secret. We know little of who they are, including their professions, and who they are as individuals. We know their names and their ages, and that’s about it. “Their faces and stances say, Yes, we will give you our image, but nothing else”.

1985 Allston MA

1985- Allston, MA

1986- Cambridge, MA

This is the first close-up photo thus far in the series. Three of the sisters are in their thirties, while the youngest is 26. The women’s resemblance to one another is more evident in this close-up photograph when compared to shots taken from farther away.

1986 Cambridge MA

1986- Cambridge, MA

1987- Chatham, MA

It is very refreshing to see photographs absent of fake smiles and stiff poses. This series is so natural, capturing each sister’s feelings and mood in the moment. The outcome is much more powerful than pre-planned would have been.

1987 Chatham MA

1987- Chatham, MA

1988- Wellesley, MA

Nixon says, “…even though people understand the concept of time, we do not notice it passing. The release of a new image of the sisters each year, for some, signals another year has gone by, and the more years that do, the more it shows how time does pass”.

1988 Wellesley MA

1988- Wellesley, MA

1989- Cambridge, MA

Each year Nixon would say to the women, “just give me what you’ve got”. No expectations, no direction, just that one line.

1989 Cambridge MA

1989- Cambridge, MA

1990- Woodstock, VT

Nixon prides himself on not directing any movement. The affection they show to one another, or don’t show to one another, is completely arbitrary. The women’s movements are spontaneous, whatever they do, he captures.

1990 Woodstock VT

1990- Woodstock, VT

1991- Watertown, MA

Nixon said that when deciding which photograph to choose, he personally looks for one that says something interesting about each of the sisters, as well as the overall drama of the picture.

1991 Watertown MA

1991- Watertown, MA

1992- Concord, MA

1992’s photograph is especially unique because the sisters are not all looking into the camera lens. What does this tell us about their mood that day?

1992 Concord MA

1992- Concord, MA

1993- Boston, MA

The picture published each year is mutually decided between the four sisters. Every photograph is taken using the exact same 8 x 10 camera. All of the photos are black-and-white, no color.

1993 Boston MA

1993- Boston, MA

1994- Grantham, NH

When a gallery in Granda, Spain exhibited 36 prints from the series, viewers openly wept seeing the transformation of the women before their eyes.

1994 Grantham NH

1994- Grantham, NH

1995- Marblehead, MA

Three of the sisters are now in their forties, while the youngest is 35. This photo marks 20 years from the first image of the series.

1995 Marblehead MA

1995- Marblehead, MA

1996- Lexington, MA

Nixon was quoted saying, “I worried that the sisters may get more self-conscious about the series over time but, they haven’t”. The way their aging, and beauty is effortlessly captured takes out the self-consciousness factor.

1996 Lexington MA

1996- Lexington, MA

1997- Wellesley Hills, MA

If the sisters were ever unanimous when choosing a photo, and Nixon disagreed, he always went with their choice. “I have to be fair here,” he said.

1997 Wellesley Hills MA

1997- Wellesley Hills, MA

1998- Falmouth, MA

Over the years, we see the women begin to trust Nixon more and more. He even acknowledges this claim stating, “We’ve gotten close”.

1998 Falmouth MA

1998- Falmouth, MA

1999- Brookline, MA

In 1999, the first edition of ‘The Brown Sisters’ was released. In 2008, a second edition was released, and an updated third was published in 2014.

1999 Brookline MA

1999- Brookline, MA

2000- Eastham, MA

Aging, next to sickness, is one of life’s most humbling experiences. As we age, we are more and more grateful for life itself, and the beauty of living.

2000 Eastham MA

2000- Eastham, MA

2001- Brewster, MA

As we look at the images, we may see more sorrow in the eyes, or more sun spots, but this is all that comes with growing older. Amazingly enough, the Brown sisters do not let aging define them, not one bit. Rather, they embrace it with open arms.

2001 Brewster MA

2001- Brewster, MA

2002- Marblehead, MA

As we scroll through the photographs from each year, we are aware of what growing old looks like. But, we can also attribute aging to the marathon of life, and the endurance accompanied with it.

2002 Marblehead MA

2002- Marblehead, MA

2003- Ipswich, MA

The lines on their foreheads and freckles on their cheeks show us a wonderful life in the sun, summers on the beach full of laughs and fun.

2003 Ipswich MA

2003- Ipswich, MA

2004- Cataumet, MA

This is the first, and only, photo that we see a technological device make an appearance. We can figure out the year the photo was taken based on the model of the cellphone. The presence of the phone shows us that there are lives being lived, whether we are let into them or not.

2004 Cataumet MA

2004- Cataumet, MA

2005- Cataumet, MA

The women’s faces in each photograph share a story, the ups, the downs…the beautiful journey that is life.

2005 Cataumet MA

2005- Cataumet, MA

2006- Wellesley, MA

This is the first photo in awhile where the women are seen sitting. Was there a reason for this? Maybe, old age was kicking in, the years of being active and youth, fading.

2006 Wellesley MA

2006- Wellesley, MA

2007- Cataumet, MA

Hairstyle changes, and new fashion trends show us the passing of years, the new eras and decades the women are experiencing.

2007 Cataumet MA

2007- Cataumet, MA

2008- Dallas, TX

While all of the other photos in the series were taken on the East Coast, the 2008 photo was different, being photographed in Texas.

2008 Dallas TX

2008- Dallas, TX

2009- Truro, MA

This series allows us to see the beauty of aging in a very raw and natural form. Omitting the sexualization of women with forced poses and fake smiles makes the photographs that much more successful.

2009 Truro MA

2009- Truro, MA

2010- Truro, MA

Many people have asked Nixon what he would do if one of the sisters happened to be unavailable that year, or if for heavens sake, one of them passed away. He replied, “It is my intention to hopefully find a way to carry on”.

2010 Truro MA

2010- Truro, MA

2011- Truro, MA

When the sisters first began the series, they mainly stood alone or in pairs for the photos. As they age, whether unconsciously or not, we see them come together as one unit, holding one another, and looking more connected than ever.

2011 Truro MA

2011- Truro, MA

2012- Boston, MA

A palm steadies another’s neck, arms embrace arms, a hand clasps another sister’s waist…independence is no longer a concern, we see the women’s bodies meld together as one.

2012 Boston MA

2012- Boston, MA

2013- Truro, MA

The photos aren’t given titles, Nixon preferred to name them with just the year and the location.

2013 Truro MA

2013- Truro, MA

2014- Wellfleet, MA

The ‘Brown Sisters’ features the women as subjects, as the alive people that they are. The passage of time, the familial bond, and the beauty of aging are all beautifully captured in this emotional journey of life. Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie share their lives with us, and show us the beauty and vulnerability associated with aging and growing old.

2014 Wellfleet MA

2014- Wellfleet, MA

ADVERTISEMENT