Friday, December 26, 2008

ARTIST I LIKE: nicholas nixon

Many moons ago, when I was a junior or senior in high school, I was given a book of Nicholas Nixon's photography. It was a book of family photos, all pictures of his wife and children. I was completely in love with these images. They were so intimate and so real; the photographs captured the essence of a family - dirty, messy, raw moments strung together with love. A few years later when I was a photography student I was able to learn more about Nixon's work and processes. He uses a large format camera - an 8x10 view camera to be exact. If you aren't familiar with this type of camera (and few are in this age of point and shoot digital camera phones) imagine the giant cameras with the bellows and the photographer hidden beneath the black cape. That is what Nixon uses. His portfolio contains far more than his family photographs. He is best known for his series of portraits of AIDS patients and the 30 year photographic documentation of The Brown Sisters (his wife and her sisters). The image above is from his recent exhibition titled "Patients" that portrays terminally ill patients. Although his subject matter ranges from a sweet, drooling baby to an AIDS stricken man on his deathbed, the images are remarkably similar. Each captures an intimate, quiet moment, giving you a glimpse of the private lives of real people. There is no glamour here. Just raw, true pieces of lives. Nicholas Nixon's work influenced me greatly throughout my art school years. In fact, my BFA exhibition was intimate portraits of my friends and family, photographed with an 8x10 view camera.

I still am completely in love with Nixon's family pictures. Although I've viewed each of them dozens of times I still get that amazing clenching in my chest and throat - the feeling I get when a piece of art, music or writing really touches me - every time I look at one of his prints. If you aren't familiar with Nicholas Nixon you can see a great deal of his portfolio on the Fraenkel Gallery site.


MJ said...

Great post!

I have always had a love for photography. There is nothing like a film camera - developing the film by hand and spending hours in a dark room getting the exposures just right.

Happy New Year!

Ms. Lellock said...

This is a really engaging post. I want to go to the library now to see if it has a Nixon book. And now I feel as though I have a better understanding of your senior show!

BTW, my mother still has the enormous print of me hanging in the stairwell. It's a beautiful picture, though it's a bit embarrassing to have a giant me prominently displayed...

Tulaloo said...

I miss actual film and chemical photography. Digital just isn't the same.

Ms. Lellock, I'll bring my Nixon book next weekend. You'll love it. You reminded me though...maybe I should do a little retrospective exhibit on the blog featuring your portrait. ;)