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Monday, February 16, 2015

Forty Portraits in Forty Years

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist, copyright 2014 Nicholas Nixon

My mother came across a fascinating article and collection of photographs on the New York Times website two evenings ago and I couldn't help but share them here.

The pictures themselves speak volumes, but in two lines: four sisters, photographed together every year, someplace in New England, since 1975. A simple idea but with stunning results. The tiny loving gestures, expressions, and the lines and cares that start to creep into each face over time…all beautiful and haunting.

White says in OFK, "She looked singularly lovely, not like a film star, but like a woman who had grown a soul." That is what I see in these ladies' images. Imagine if we could see all of our lives laid out in photographs this way?

While working at the bookshop I often heard people say that they wished there was a book on such-and-such topic. I think I would like to see more picture books that deal with memories and with aging.

At the ice rink there are a group of older men who come every day to the open skate. Some are former hockey players, but all have skated since they were little. They are like the American version of my older English friends. David, Jeffrey, Gordon, Nigel, Roger, Colin, Phil, and Fred have become Bob, John, Bill, Doug, Kenny, Steve, Rich, and Frank. Instead of talking about art and music and life in East Anglia, we talk more about sports and the news and life in western New York. A couple of them may be a little creaky off the ice, and maybe the speed they once had has slowed, but there is a deftness and a grace in their footwork. Sometimes, in a fleeting second or two, they seem young again that way, and in the smile in their eyes.

White writes: "She had made the brave protest: I will not be vanquished….The young eyes were puzzled, saying: It is I, inside here -- what have they done to me? I will not submit….They said: Don't look at all this. Look at me. I am still here, in the eyes. Look at me, here in the prison, and help me out. Another part said: I am not old, it is illusion. I am beautifully made-up. See, I will perform the movements of youth. I will defy the enormous army of age."

One of the men told me that they start to worry when one of the group doesn't show up for a day or two. They tell me about some of their friends who used to come but have since died. And one day, there will be an empty space in these photographs. But that is what makes it all so beautiful, no?


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