© Nicholas Nixon, 2022
The series Patients, which was exhibited for the first time at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, groups the photographs taken by Nixon over the course of three years during his visits to gravely and terminally ill patients at several hospitals in Boston. This project continues in the vein of the photographer’s previous work and stems from his interest in portraying fundamental human realities that are habitually kept secret; for instance family life, sex, or the cardinal moments of existence, such as birth, infancy and death.
Already in 1983 Nixon was picturing the end of life through a series of photographs he made of the elderly people he visited as a volunteer. These works emphasize the vulnerability of bodies and the passing of time.
Nevertheless, the differences between these two series are manifested in the evolution of Nixon’s work. The effect produced by the photographer’s proximity to his subjects’ bodies during the 1980s is transformed in Patients: here, proximity produces a genuine sensitive emotion conveyed by the haptic qualities of the image. John Royston, Easton, Massachusetts, depicts the body as mass: volume without a gaze, resulting in a paradoxical sensation of strength and resilience that emerges alongside one of fragility, finiteness, estrangement and tenderness.