Nicholas Nixon was born in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. He studied American literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and received an MFA in photography at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Nixon has worked as an independent photographer since 1974. He is the recipient of two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships, three National Endowment for the Arts Photographer's Fellowships, and a Massachusetts Council for the Arts "New Works" Grant. He currently is a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.
Nixon has been exploring portraiture and social photography since the 1970s. Although best known for The Brown Sisters, he has created several other series noted for their humanity and restrained emotion. Nixon often spends a year or two exploring his chosen theme: among his subjects have been nursing home residents (Old People), AIDS patients in their final months (People with Aids), and Boston schoolchildren (School).
His photographs have been exhibited at numerous museums and galleries, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has published many books of photographs, including: Nicholas Nixon (2003); A City Seen (2001); The Brown Sisters (1999); School: Photographs from Three Schools (1998); People with AIDS (1991); Family Pictures (1991); Nicholas Nixon: Pictures of People (1988); and Photographs from One Year (1983). Nixon's photographs are in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among many others. (From the press release for the 2005-2006 NGA exhibition Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters)