Date of Lecture: 1990-03-30
Nicholas Nixon is a photographer who is best-known for his candid images of family members and of individuals living in and around his Boston home. Having graduated with a degree in American literature from the University of Michigan, Nixon’s first photographs were topographical images of the Boston cityscape. Nixon went on to complete an MFA at the University of New Mexico and soon turned his attention to photographing people. His acclaimed project, The Brown Sisters (begun in 1975) comprises an ongoing series of annual portraits taken of his wife Bebe and her three sisters. Nixon’s working method employs an 8” x 10” view camera, which allows him to instill an otherwise snap-shot aesthetic with distinctive clarity and monumentality.
His series, People With Aids (1988) was controversial when it was first appeared due to its stark portrayal of the effects of the disease on individuals. Nixon’s treatment has since been praised for both setting an historical precedent and for its directness. Nixon’s School series (1998) portrays the institution in terms of its classroom dynamics and the successes of its affirmative action programs.
One of his latest projects, Boston Public Garden (1999), focuses upon the interactions between couples in public parks. Nixon captures gestures and poses with a characteristic eye for visual paradox.
Nixon has had solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago (1985), the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1989) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1976 and 1988). The MoMA was also responsible for organizing his mid-career retrospective, Pictures of People (1988). Recently, Nixon exhibited at the Cincinnati Art Museum (2001). Nixon has received the George Gund Foundation Fellowship (2000), three National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowships (1987, 1980, 1976) and two Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships (1977, 1986).
Nixon is a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and is represented by the Zabriskie Gallery in New York and the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.