It all begins in 1975. Photographer Nicholas Nixon asked his wife and three sisters to group together for a little impromptu family photo. Little did they know this would soon become a tradition.
It’s unknown what event brought the four sisters together again in an open field, but it seemed like a perfect opportunity for another family photo for a scrapbook. By this point, they hadn’t quite started a trend.
This shot took place in Harvard, Massachusetts. Yes, the Harvard you’re thinking of. It’s unknown if one or all of the sisters were educated there, but we dread to think of the potential tuition bill for them.
Judging from the tank tops, summer is rolling in, and the sisters are taking a break at Harwich Port. Now, Harwich Port is a very wealthy beach resort in Massachusetts. Were these ladies from a rich family?
The 1970s were drawing to a close, and a maturing had begun to set in for the sisters. By no means were they old, just that they were going from young adults to fully fledged grown ups.
A new decade dawns on the four sisters. For one reason or another, they found themselves in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. East Greenwich is a very upmarket area, again hinting they were wealthy.
By this point, the yearly photographs of the four were either a running joke or a concerted effort to document memories. It must have been a hot summer, as all four of them were wearing shorts that day.
Summer turns to winter and the four gather near the chilly ocean for their next snap. It seems a little bit of hair dying had gone on before this snap was taken, as you’ll notice the blonde is now a brunette.
Back to summer again. You may have noticed most of these photos are quite serious, almost like a photoshoot for a band. In fact, you may think the sister in the middle has a touch of Joan Jett about her.
The four sisters return to the waterfront but during the summer this time. No need for heavy knitted clothing or thick coats. For the very first time, we have a cameo by the photographer and his shadow.
The ten year anniversary of the first group photo of this collection. Did they decide to recreate the original photo? No, but they’re certainly getting a lot more creative and artistic with how they position themselves.
It’s interesting to note, despite having color film readily available, they’re still using black and white stock. At this point, it has to be an artistic choice. Smart move; it helps keep this collection consistent.
We’re well over a decade into this little art project now. You’ll start to notice that the sisters usually have the same kind of facial expressions, ranging from tight scowls to shy smiles starting in on their faces.
It was the end of the Reagan era, and the United States was in a period of significant change. The feathered hair look was clearly familiar with a few of them. At least they didn’t decide on having perms.
As we wave goodbye to the 1980s, the sisters seem to have relocated inside for their yearly photo shoot. The more they change, the more they stay the same. The march of time is starting for them.
A new decade begins, and we find the ladies in a small town called Woodstock in the State of Vermont. It’s not quite cold enough for the big winter jackets, but clearly autumn is setting in.
The sisters gather again near Watertown in Massachusetts, which is a pretty wealthy little area. Clearly, the ladies haven’t fallen on hard times if they’re still hanging around all these affluent places together.
A newcomer appears in the picture, but you won’t see them even if you look hard. One of the younger sisters is pregnant, though we don’t know if this is their first time. They don’t seem thrilled about it.
The Clinton years begin in earnest. The residual traces of the late 80s start to wash away, and we can see the fashion trends of the 90s emerge. The baggy jumpers and denim are a sure start.
We draw in, making this the most intimate photo of the lot to date. The sister on the centre left appears to be unnerved by the camera, either that or she’s about to sneeze all over the lens.
Happy 20th anniversary! For once, all four sisters seem pretty pleased with having the camera on them. Maybe they’re celebrating this momentous occasion, or maybe they’re finally relaxed being photographed.
We’re now past the point of no return for 90s fashion, so brace yourself for tweed, frizzy hair, and knitted items of clothing. All three of those things make an appearance in this if you take a long look.
Even after more than twenty years, it doesn’t seem like the sisters are slowing down yet. Not one of them has missed the chance to be part of this yearly photograph. It must be important to all of them.
The sisters find themselves back at the coast again, but thankfully in not terribly cold or wet weather. Although three are wearing something a little warmer, one sister doesn’t seem to mind at all.
It’s almost time to wave goodbye to the 90s. Age is starting to set in for the sisters, although the lines and creases are exaggerated by the use of black and white photography and a sharp lens.
A new millennium begins for the sisters, and predictably they all return to the coast. Yet again, three sisters are chilly enough to wrap up warm, while one does not. I guess she must just run hot.
2001 was not a good year for the United States. Although, it seems this photo was taken before a particular tragedy, as the type of clothing worn and the intense sunlight suggests this was summer.
Some suspect fashion choices are going on here, but by this point, the sisters must be approaching middle age. Besides, the 2000s were mostly a flaming pile of garbage when it came to clothes.
It’s warm and breezy, judging from the short sleeves and hair blowing in the wind. By now we should have realized the coast was a favorite place for the sisters. Perhaps they have a house there?
The sister on the right decides to break the pattern of looking at the camera and turns away. It’s interesting to note that we still see the photos shot on film, long after the digital camera arrived.
Thirty years have since passed since the first photo, and the same sister looking away is doing the same for this picture. Maybe she’s trying to buck the trend from the older pictures, or starting a new one.
The sister on the right is taking this “look away from the camera” thing seriously, isn’t she? Still, there are smiles all around on this one. The creases and wrinkles are starting to show now.
Back to the classic, looking straight into the camera, neither smiling nor frowning. You may think the intense sunlight is highlighting their wrinkles a little too much, but telltale signs of greying hair approach.
The sisters have mainly resided in the affluent areas of the Northeastern United States, but this time, they’ve taken a trip south to Dallas. They seem rather wrapped up, given Texas heat and the sunshine.
Of course, the Texas detour didn’t last for long. They’re back to their old haunts up in Massachusetts, mostly likely yet again by the coast. A new decade is about it begin shortly.
Greyer and older, but still as close as ever. While their relationships must have had some bumps over the last thirty-five years, they’ve at least remained together enough to keep these snaps going.
The composition has taken on more of a three-dimensional style, opting to put the sisters at different depths in the photo. It almost looks like they’re posing for the cover to a music album.
The sisters are closer than ever in this snap, opting for a nice warm hug while huddling together. It’s sweet to think they’ve all taken the time to indulge the cameraman even after all this time.
Age has set in, but there’s still a youthful look in the eyes of these women. If you go back to the very first picture of this set, you’ll likely see the same glimmer and shine they still have even now.
As we reach the final photo in this set, one thing that strikes me is the intimacy of the photos here. The sisters are always close, physically. To do this for so long, they must be close emotionally too.