Nicholas Nixon is known for his intimate black-and-white photographs taken using a large-format camera. Based in Boston since the 1970s, Nixon has persistently captured the personal details of relationships, family, and life as it unfolds in front of his camera. He has photographed Boston’s changing landscape, porch life in the rural South, sick or dying people, couples, and his own family. Recording his subjects closely and with meticulous detail creates a sense of intimacy and connection between the viewer and the subject.
During the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Nixon followed fifteen individuals living with the disease to compose his critical series People with AIDS. He chronicled their daily lives—resting in bed, lost in thought, embracing loved ones—sensitively and sympathetically, depicting these men and women and their deteriorating health at the hands of this uncompromising illness. Several of the photographs were exhibited in Nixon’s 1988 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and these particular works drew strong reactions: art historian, critic, curator, and AIDS activist Douglas Crimp contended they lacked social context and perpetuated stereotypes about people with AIDS, but others saw them as empathetic, an attempt to expose the catastrophic consequences of HIV/AIDS. Nixon photographed Tom Moran from August 1987 to February 1988, right before his death. The artist grew to know all of his subjects intimately, and Moran, as Nixon writes, “was part of a large Catholic family and grew up in the working-class suburb of Quincy, outside Boston.” In the sequence of photographs, one can see the rapid decline of Moran’s health, but also tender moments with his parents and within his home. In some images, Moran appears to give knowing glances to the camera, and ultimately the viewer, acknowledging his condition.
This photograph is part of a suite of prints from Nixon and adds to the ICA/Boston’s current holdings of the artist’s People with AIDS series depicting architecture student George Gannett. It enhances the ICA’s strong photography collection and works from the 1980s, and also deepens the representation of local artists in the collection as well as other Boston school artists, such as Nan Goldin, Mark Morrisroe, and Jack Pierson.