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Forty Portraits in Forty Years

Forty Portraits in Forty Years
Text by SUSAN MINOT Nicholas Nixon was visiting his wife’s family when, “on a whim,” he said, he asked her and her three sisters if he could take their picture. It was summer 1975, and a black-and-white photograph of four young women — elbows casually attenuated, in summer shirts and pants, standing pale and luminous against a velvety background of trees and lawn — was the result. A year later, at the graduation of one of the sisters, while readying a shot of them, he suggested they line up in the same order. After he saw the image, he asked them if they might do it every year. “They seemed O.K. with it,” he said; thus began a project that has spanned almost his whole career. Who are these sisters? Whenever a woman is photographed, the issue of her vanity is inevitably raised, but Nixon has finessed this with his choice of natural light, casual manner and unfussy preparation. Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience.

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