The past year has had me thinking about legacy. The term “legacy planning” has come up a few times. I guess once you’re in your 40s, it’s time to figure out what happens to all your money and stuff when you die.
But what really strikes me about “legacy” is the idea that things can live beyond me. Heritage – your life blends with the past to carry into the future. That feels weighty. Important. What will we do that lives beyond us? What is your heritage and how will you impact it?
Then, last month, I was introduced to The Brown Sisters.
Do you know the Brown Sisters?
Lemme introduce you…Bebe Brown, 25, was the oldest of the 4 sisters—Heather, Mimi and Laurie who was 15. She married Massachusettes College of Art Photography Professor Nicholas Nixon. Most of his work documented the natural and built landscape of Boston. In 1974 Nicholas photographed his wife and her three sisters together. He threw that negative away. In 1975 he made another portrait of them, and deemed it worth keeping. The following year, Laurie graduated and Nicholas photographed the sisters again. It only took having the 2 portraits side by side to realize the power of a photographer capturing the passage of time, and elevating it to art. It was already “heritage.” They made it an annual tradition, promising that no matter where in the world they were, they would get together for the annual portrait. Casually dressed, the sisters posed in the same order left to right. One black and white photo per year to represent them right now.
After 40 years, in 2015, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of all 40 portraits. My friend saw this show, and last month he insisted on giving me the companion book. He said “do this” when he gave it to me. He was so blown away by the ability to see the progress of life in them. By keeping so many things constant, the changes of time and relationships become starkly visible. We grow older along with these women. We don’t know them at all, but after going through the book several times, I love them. And they are still doing it, now in their 60s and 70s. The 2020 portrait is painfully “of the time.”
I have a bittersweet gratitude for this project. I’m so in love and heartbroken by it. The way time often makes me feel. I wish I’d started something like this 20 years ago. In some ways I have. I have a handful of families I have photographed several times over the last 20 years – but none annually, like this formal agreement. It’s a weighty promise – like Heritage – that we’ll all get together once a year no matter what. So, I’m offering 24 such Annual Heritage Portrait spots for next year – just 2 spots per month. Because it means I have to be here too.
This definitely isn’t for everyone. It isn’t trendy. It’s not about the mountains or the sunset or the sky. It isn’t made to get lost in a folder on the cloud. Every year we do pretty much the same shoot. At the same time. And make one black and white Heritage portrait to hang. Over the years, you’ll have a gallery wall. Your children will each take one with them to college.
Choose a month for your family that coincides with a birthday or anniversary or favorite season. This will be your family’s month and week every year from now on.
By end of next week details and booking will be available on my website. For now, you’re the only ones who know. Do you have questions? Is there a month you like to secure for your Heritage? Reply to this email and let’s answer your questions. Or forward this to that person who comes to mind.