Nicholas Nixon. Covington, Kentucky. 1982

Nicholas Nixon Covington, Kentucky 1982

  • Not on view

The taut clapboards zip across the open middle of the picture as if to measure the outward stretch of the boy's arms, while he blissfully tilts his head skyward. A photograph can only describe what the camera sees, but this one also shows how a body can feel. There is something else, which the reproduction cannot fully capture. The print was made from a negative as large as itself—eight by ten inches. To make the negative, Nixon used a big camera on a tripod and put his head under a black cloth to focus the image. All of that old-fashioned effort was worthwhile because the richness of detail in the negative yielded a print that is at once sharp as a pin and smooth as a child's skin and the light that falls upon it.

By the 1970s the artistic traditions of photography were old enough for abandoned styles and techniques to serve as fresh points of departure. After photographers had been in love with the ease and quickness of hand-held cameras for two generations, the cumbersome cameras of the past presented a new challenge. For Nixon, the challenge was to make the old box responsive to unfolding experience: to marry the ancient precision of photography with its modern agility.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 327.
Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
7 11/16 x 9 11/16" (19.5 x 24.5 cm)
Credit
The Family of Man Fund
Object number
282.1988
Copyright
© 2019 Nicholas Nixon
Department
Photography

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.