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Sunday, 05 October 2014


One thing about the portrait series is that it's all well and good to see them reproduced on screen, or in a book. The problem is that what you get from that is a bare hint of the impact of actually seeing the series of actual prints on a wall. I've seen it twice - once at the Eastman House in Rochester, and once in DC. I can't quite find the words to describe the experience. Moving doesn't quite cover it. Breathtaking, maybe.

If you have an opportunity to see the series in a show, seize it. Don't pass it up thinking "Oh, I've seen that in a book", because you haven't.

Canandaigua Lake is beautiful this time of year, esp from the south end, above NAPLES.

The Fraenkel Gallery has posted a video interview with Nicholas Nixon on their website, worth a look:

An excellent similar project is An American Family: Three Decades with the McGarveys, by Pam Spaulding (http://www.amazon.com/An-American-Family-Decades-McGarveys/dp/142620504X)

It's mostly wide-angle candid photographs, paired as diptychs to show the passage of time (for example, the mother and father as a young couple sitting in their new house, paired with the now-grown son with his girlfriend sitting in the same chairs years later).

The photos are great on their own, and truly fantastic as pairs.

Agree, Mike, totally fascinating, moving, and a photography masterpiece.

thanks for posting this Mike-- it enlarged my day by a considerable margin.

Mike, on vacation, from the Finger Lakes District in New York State


You must photograph the Watkins Glen race, and write a series of articles:


You can see the complete series on the French site http://www.konbini.com/fr/culture/quatre-soeurs-photographiees-36-ans-nicholas-nixon/
One of the best example of the power of art photography. So close of everyday experience of life.

I have always thought that photography is merely the will to seize the time. Nixon here bring to light that it is not possible to subdue or deny it, but to tame it by a caress with an infinite tenderness.

La sororité, as we would say in French, enlightens these images, and that of 2014 is like a climax.

Wonderful and heartbreaking. Who can look at these Brown Sisters without some momentum of ineffable tenderness?

The text of Susan Minot is perfect indeed.

Yes. It is a wonderful piece. And I love those pictures. I first saw a show of them in 1984 and it was one of those moments that changed what I thought photography was "for." It also changed what I thought you could do with a large format camera.

The most interesting thing about those images was that, to me, the sisters did not appear to be aging in a linear fashion. What I mean by this is that while they are all clearly changing in each annual photograph, some sisters seem to age more in a particular year than others.

About a dozen years ago, I started my own series with a group of friends whom I have known since childhood. I called them (jokingly) "The Annual Decrepitude Pictures," as I felt it likely that in each year, we were probably as physically beautiful and photographically glamorous as we would ever be, given our collective slide into middle age. Unlike Nixon, I have included children who have been born along the way, as well as spouses/partners, so that the number of people in the pictures has grown every year. Still. Nixon and his pictures, and the generosity of his wife and her sisters, continues to affect me deeply and is, I think, one of the quiet monuments of portraiture -- a really magnificent achievement.

People have remarked on the difference of seeing this series on screen, vs. seeing it as prints in a gallery.

In theory a well-prepared computer version of a photo ought to be able to be about as "good" as a first-rate print (I'm talking about prepping it for display on some specific very high-quality screen, not the much more common preparation to vaguely middle-of-the-road web standards and displaying on ordinary-quality monitors all over the world).

I have the impression that many of us have at least an emotional reaction that it isn't.

Of course, mostly we see files prepped for the web, on monitors not near the resolution of a good print (even my main Photoshop monitor isn't anywhere near 300dpi for example). And the prep may well not be nearly as careful as what people do for print (my own often isn't, if it's targeted just for the web).

The monitors are fairly often smaller than modern prints are frequently made.

Also people may simply not have the expertise to really optimize a print for monitor display. Light emitting displays are very different from reflective displays like prints, after all, and I don't know many people who have studied preparing images for them to anything like the degree people study printing.

The setting matters, too. Going to a museum or gallery for the purpose of seeing prints, and seeing them displayed isolated on the wall, is a different experience from seeing them on your computer monitor, in the middle of your usual office space, possibly briefly while you're also juggling five other things. This one can be a really big difference.

So, I think we have to withhold judgment for a while yet; I don't think the experiment of giving computer display of photos the degree of careful attention we give to print-making has been performed yet, not enough to reach a conclusion (I'm sure individual people have tried things now and then). I don't think we know what the artistic pluses and minuses of the best possible monitor display of photos are relative to the best possible print display.

I remember people talking about the experience of looking at projected slides (film-type slides back in the day!) compared to looking at prints, and at least some of them expressing a preference for the slides. Of course one rarely gets to actually compare projected slides and exhibition quality prints of the same pictures or even equally good similar pictures.

How well would it work if a series of images were prepped by an expert for display on some specific model monitor, and then a gallery had that monitor hung on the walls in various places to display the images? Would going to that exhibit then be essentially comparable (not equal) to going to an exhibition of prints? (Lets hypothesize that we avoid images that are particularly bad for either display technology.)

In a few more years, the average display may be good enough that it's less important to optimize for one specific display, too.

Looks like you picked a perfect time to be traveling in upstate New York. I was flying home to Newark airport last week, and our plane broke through the cloud deck at Albany, heading south. The trees in the Catskills were vivid. A year ago at this time, I was also in the Finger Lakes region and the color was nice, but probably not as good as they're saying it is this year. Enjoy the rest of the trip. And if you haven't drifted too far beyond Corning, try this coffee place:

He's a great artist.

A great project that really gets at the essence of what I love about photography. Much of the power of these images, for me, is that they are real. They are raw. No studio, make-up, retouching or any other masking of reality. Wouldn't any artificial augmentation like that have ruined this??


Don't take this wrong. I find the series somewhat depressing. Not sure why...

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