Four Sisters Take the Same Photo for 40 Years – The Reason They Stop is Devastating
For most families, documenting special moments is an essential part of life. Time flies by most of the time, and you can forget to appreciate your loved ones. But – for the Brown sisters – they never let one year go by without seeing each other.
In 1975, Bebe Brown’s husband, photographer Nicholas Nixon, snapped the first photo of his wife and her three sisters, Heather, Mimi, and Laurie. However, that wasn’t the last of it. Nixon decided to turn the photo into a project where they would be reunited each year by taking the same photo. Here are the results!
1975, The Journey Began
1975 marked the year that the special project between Nixon and the Brown sisters began. It’s also the same year that Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster hit Jaws came out, which claimed more than $100 million at the box office.
Part of Nixon’s process is that he doesn’t include any caption for the photographs, only the date and location. Posing left to right are Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie, and they are between 15 to 25 years old at this time. The viewers can create their own stories about the sisters and how they will change over the years.
1976, There’s Some Matching Happening Here
The sisters’ wardrobe choices seem to mirror each other’s in many of the photos. Whether they’re wearing clothes with similar patterns, cuts, or prints, they each have a distinct sense of style. In this photo, Laurie and Bebe are wearing the same dress.
While they could have done it intentionally, perhaps it was a mere coincidence! It shows how much they are alike. Despite the sisters’ serious faces, they have a silly side that is unexpected. Keeping in line with the comedic side of things, the BBC convinced listeners that a shift in the planets was going to occur in no time, lessening Earth’s gravity.
1977, Did The Sisters See ‘Star Wars’?
1977 was the year that one of the biggest films ever made was released: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It was the movie in which the quote “May the force be with you” became the most popular that year.
There weren’t any obvious references to the movie in this photo, so it’s unclear whether the sisters were fans of the movie or not. But, it’s likely that they saw the movie since that was a common activity to do as teenagers.
1978, The Sisters May Have Been Big ‘Grease’ Fans
Grease was a massive hit in America in 1978, turning John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John into huge stars. That same year, Clube dos Cafajestes (National Lampoon’s Animal House) also came out, which many parents weren’t too fond about.
We wonder if the sisters were wearing leather pants since that was a popular trend at the time. The bohemian style of Stevie Nicks and the music of Fleetwood Mac were also influential, too. Perhaps the sisters were more influenced by that style, than what was in Grease.
1979, Almost A New Decade
As they were prepping themselves to take this photo, we wonder what they were thinking about or what music was playing in the background (if any). In 1979, the most popular song was The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which was undoubtedly booming everywhere in America back then.
Even 40 years later, the fashion is still representative of what women could wear today. It’s proof that the style or their sisterly love hasn’t changed too significantly over time.
1980, The Brown Sisters Seemed Chipper
While the Brown siblings usually appear more serious, Nixon captured them at a moment when they were a bit more light and chipper. We’re sure that they were happy to see one another, too!
What was going on in their lives at the time? Maybe it was a graduation or a wedding or even being in a new relationship that made them smile. We can only speculate, but it’s wonderful to see them happy and embracing one another’s presence.
1981, It’s Time To Act Like Adults
The Brown sisters were in their 20s (aside from Bebe) by the time this photo was taken. So, they probably already had jobs or were going to university.
It’s interesting to note that the sisters appear more mature and older here. We can truly notice just how much they look alike in terms of features. How much they have really changed in the past few years is going to become even more evident with the next set of photos.
1982, A Chilly Day For The Sisters
Clearly, we can already see how much older the sisters look in this image, as they are women and no longer teens. The sisters are all bundled up as Nixon positioned them outside, presumably in pretty chilly temperatures!
We wonder if they were maybe on a trip or vacation. While we will never know, Nixon sure did snap a great photo and also got the sisters in their best cold-weather attire.
1983 - Were The Sisters Jenga Fans?
Jenga came onto the scene at the London Toy Fair in 1983. Who knows – maybe the sisters were big fans of the game themselves? They may have spent hours playing with each other, but the real question is: who won every time?
Nixon expertly positioned the sisters in this photograph. Heather and Laurie being close to the camera in a semicircle achieve the effect that the viewer feels included in their conversation. It’s also a special way that Nixon communicated just how personal the photos are, and how close the sisters remain.
1984, Nixon Almost Makes An Appearance
Up until this point, Nixon has remained anonymous – aside from the fact that we know he’s taken every photo. The photo shoot on this day took place at the beach, judging by the sand and water behind the sisters. Nixon’s shadow is in the shot – we wonder why he made that choice.
1984 was an interesting year, and here’s a cool fact! Baby on board stickers began to become popular that year because they helped emergency workers spot babies who were in situations that were potentially harmful.
1985, A Full Decade Of Photos
For one decade, Nixon and the sisters had been doing this project together! It’s wild to think about. In this photo, the sisters were ages 25, 31, 33, and 25. Wow, time moves so fast!
While they all have their own lives, they kept reuniting every year to take a photo together. Indeed, the project is special because it reignites their love for one another, and makes sure they stay in touch.
1986, Close To The Camera
Rather than showing us a full photo of the sisters’ outfits, Nixon took a different approach and captured the sisters close up. They all seem very content, which makes us wonder if a good thing happened to them prior to the snapping of this photo.
1986’s most popular song was the mega-hit “That’s What Friends Are For,” sung by Dionne Warwick. We have to wonder if there’s a sister version somewhere out there. Actually, this photo does look like something that would be on the front of an album cover!
1987, Bebe And Mimi Are Front And Center
We wonder why Nixon decided to put his wife, Bebe, on the right and Mimi closer to the camera in this particular photograph. It could have been an important year for the two of them, but we clearly don’t know if that’s true!
For those who are diehard sports fans, we have a fun fact for you. Lionel Messi, an Argentine football player, and the world’s best, was born. 1987 is also the year that Nelson Piquet, a Formula 1 driver, received the title of three-time world champion for his sport.
1988, The ‘80s Vibes Are Noticeable Here
The animal print shirt that Laurie is sporting is an essential pattern choice of the 1980s! So far, we haven’t seen any signature ‘80s patterns in the outfits until now.
1988 was a great year for movies. Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman came out and we wonder if any of the sisters went to see it. The animated movie Scooby-Doo also came out that year, but it was a big miss for audiences.
1989, Heather Didn’t Want To Be Photographed
It’s hard to see all of Heather since she is hiding behind Mimi. Maybe she was pregnant and didn’t want Nixon to capture it. If that is actually true, perhaps an integral part of the project is to not have viewers make assumptions about the sisters’ lives separate from the photos.
Even in 1989, they still seem close and happy to be in each other’s company. It only gets better from here, though!
1990, Another Cold Day For The Sisters
On a cold winter day, the sisters are photographed close together and hugging each other. Interestingly enough, Mimi and Bebe were sporting jean jackets, while Heather and Laurie were wearing wool.
We have a fun fact about 1990; it was the year where the first accident between two cars with airbags happened. The drivers involved weren’t injured severely, but would have been if there were no airbags.
1991, The Resemblance Is So Visible
When siblings are younger, it can be hard to visibly notice the resemblance that they bear to one another. But, here, the Brown sisters are obviously older, more mature, and have a remarkable resemblance to each other. It’s hard to tell who is who!
In 1991, the hit song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana was released, rocking the world to its very core. Funnily enough, the song was named after a deodorant: Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend apparently wore “Teen Spirit.”
1992, Was Mimi Expecting?
It should be clear by now that Nixon strategically places the sisters. There’s always a deeper intention to their positionings. Here, it appears as if he wants to clue the viewer in on what the sisters’ lives are like without giving anything away.
Heather is looking at Mimi’s belly, placing her hand on it. Was Mimi pregnant? Laurie is also looking in Mimi’s direction which could signify that they know something we don’t. From the way the sisters are positioned, it seems that Mimi is the focus of this photo.
1993, The Browns At Night
As observed, most photos of the Brown sisters are taken during the day. This one, however, looks as if the flash was used at night. The sisters appear to be wearing light sweaters to keep them warm.
Taking the photo at night was definitely a creative choice on Nixon’s part. At this point, the sisters are such pros at modeling that they can get in line with anything after nearly two decades of shooting.
1994, The Sisters Are Front And Center
Remember that the sisters took a photo similar to this one in 1986? Nixon had the sisters pose the same way eight years prior. We wonder what was going through their minds during this shoot!
A huge event happened in 1994 called Woodstock. Think big mud fights and Green Day performing (and lots of rowdiness). The band and stage were heavily covered in mud. A security guard thought Guitarist Mike Dirnt was a fan, and threw him off stage, resulting in losing his teeth.
1995, Big Love, Big Hug
It’s interesting to observe that the sisters rarely have any jewelry on, probably an intentional move. Even though Bebe is married to Nixon, she doesn’t wear her wedding ring. We wonder if perhaps they divorced or separated from each other.
A sad fact is that 37 Americans in 1995 were killed by vending machines that fell on them. Maybe that number could have been lessened if the machines didn’t spit out bills that were partially wrinkled.
1996, Dramatic Lighting
Nixon took a similar photo in 1984 – notice his shadow? We have to wonder why he decided to show up here and is nearly covering Bebe’s face. Surely, there must have been a reason.
1996 saw the year of the “Tickle Me Elmo” toy, much to the annoyance of many parents! After it was released, Elmo would constantly tickle and laugh. The toy cost a whopping $28.99, but scalpers re-sold it in newspapers and on the Internet for up to $1,500 by the end of the year.
1997, Princess Diana’s Tragic Death
With the wind blowing the sisters’ hair back, they truly look like they are in a rock or pop band. Of course, it was actually wind and not a wind machine to give off an exaggerated effect. It definitely makes them look a lot cooler, though.
Sadly, 1997 marked the tragic year that Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris. Maybe that’s why the sisters were dressed in black and dull colors? Were they fans of Princess Di and wanted to commemorate her passing?
1998, Bebe Is The Star
In this touching photo, the sisters gather around Bebe, who is notably the star of this photo. Perhaps something crucial was happening in her life which is why Nixon positioned her front and center? Mimi, on the other hand, does not look too thrilled.
Wildly enough, 1998 was the very first year that the American female life expectancy reached 79.5 years. Before that, for many decades, the life expectancy for females was around 78. Male expectancy was even lower, at 73.8.
1999, Oh, Glorious Wind
We have another sisters at the beach photo! The Browns returned to the same beach spot that they visited in 1984, but it was a bit cooler this time around.
The project continued for many more years, as Nixon kept using his camera to take interesting and perplexing photos of the sisters. We’re so glad that he did!
2000, It’s A New Century!
This particular photo of the sisters marked a very special moment: a new century. Here, we have the sisters at the beach once again. Nixon has been taking photos of the women for 25 years – it’s quite an achievement.
And, in that year, the world reached a population of 6 billion people. While the number of people on the planet had been steadily increasing, it finally crossed the threshold in 2000. The ushering of a new decade also marked the emergence of a new population number.
2001, Where Were The Sisters When 9/11 Happened?
All Americans know that September 11, 2001, was one of the darkest and most tragic days for the country. Nixon’s photographs of the sisters are a testament to the fact that life must go on despite tragedy.
It seems the sisters were on a beach vacation, as Heather and Laurie are wearing Hawaiian shirts. They probably felt even more bonded than ever before here – just look at the way they are holding each other.
2002, Polo Shirts Were In
Maybe a Ralph Lauren store had recently opened in the sisters’ town, or maybe they just wanted to wear something similar to illustrate their deep bond. Regardless of the reason, Heather decided to not follow her sisters.
It’s fascinating to observe how styles changed over the decades and what each of the Brown sisters decided to wear on that particular day. You will be excited to keep seeing their progression.
2003, The Times They Are A-Changin’
Not only do we get to witness how the lives of the Brown sisters have changed, but we also see how much technology has changed. Look at Heather’s cell phone sitting on her hip! That thing would be considered ancient these days.
Speaking of technology, we have a fun fact to share with you. The original Dunkin donut came with a handle for dipping it in coffee, but, in 2003, it was discontinued. Why? Because it had to be cut by hand and was thus replaced by a machine.
2004, A Beautiful Landscape
The first element of this photo you might notice is that Laurie is looking right at Heather. It may be the first time that these two are more prominently placed in front. Could it have been an important year for them career or family wise?
One thing that is so incredible about Nixon’s photographs and not including captions, is that the audience forms their own stories about the sisters. Nixon allows for us to create and control the narratives.
2005, Laurie’s Attention Is Focused Elsewhere
Throughout the past couple of years, we’ve noticed that Laurie has been watching over her sisters. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates just how protective she is of her sisters. But, perhaps her looking at them that way could mean something else.
Nixon continues to take intriguing photos of the Brown sisters, giving us glimpses into their lives without even knowing what is going on in them.
2006, A Wonderful Sunny Day For The Browns
We truly love these images of the sisters; they make us feel many emotions. Their faces ad body language communicate so much. In this photo, the sun came out to greet the sisters and illuminate their day.
So, 2006 was a pivotal moment in technology. It was the year when DVDs were replaced with Blu Rays. Much like today, we have access to many streaming platforms and can watch anything at our fingertips.
2007, The Sisters Change Positions
Bebe and Heather stand more prominently in the front, while Mimi and Laurie hide in the back. Bebe looks amazingly confident and has a sensitive look in her eyes while Heather places her hand on Bebe’s shoulder.
2007 was the year when the first iPhone was released on the market. It sold for $599 which is nothing compared to today’s iPhones which can cost up to $1,000 or more.
008, Nixon’s Fingers Come Into Frame
Here, the sisters truly seem comfortable and intimate with one another. It’s clear that their affectionate and close bond has not been broken. If anything, it’s probably strengthened.
Nixon accidentally captured his fingers in the frame, but that’s fine because accidents happen! Although – it might have not been an accident. We wonder if there was a reason as to why he did that.
2009, The Bond Is Stronger Than Ever
We must first mention how Laurie’s head is resting on Bebe, a pose that seems very intentional. All of their body language in this photo is further proof of their strong bond with each other. We love to see how relaxed they are!
In 2009, the hit song “Teach Me How To Dougie” by Cali Swag District was a chart-topper and remains a popular dance song all over the world.
2010, Bebe And Laurie Are Focused
We wonder what Heather and Mimi are looking at and why Bebe and Laurie aren’t more curious. Bebe and Laurie decided to look at the camera instead of looking away.
A settlement called Moriusuq in Greenland had a population of three people until 2010. Oddly enough, a self-defense case narrowed the population down to two. Now, there’s only one person who lives there now and the settlement is deemed “closed” by Greenland.
2011, Heather Is Holding Mimi’s Arm
As time went on, the sisters became more physically engaged with each other. In this photo, Mimi’s arm is around Bebe and Laurie while Heather’s hand rests on Mimi’s armpit. It’s wonderful to see them enjoying themselves.
While the sisters were having fun, the Oxford English dictionary had two abbreviations added in 2011: “OMG” and “LOL.” They became official words.
2012, The World Didn’t End
Even though the word was spreading that the world would end in 2012, it never did. Sorry, Nostradamus but your prediction was wrong! Luckily, the sisters were able to continue taking their annual photos together.
We wonder if they believed any of that or if they thought it was nonsense. We’re glad that Nixon’s project continued – not for much longer, however.
2013, They Needed A Break
We don’t know why, but the sisters stopped taking photos after 2013. It was only until 2017 that they took their very last photo. We’re glad they took a break when they needed to! 2013 marked the year that they took their 39th photo together.
Another resignation happened that year – Pope Benedict XVI. He was the first pope to resign in nearly six decades. Maybe the sisters had feelings about that!
2017, The Last And Final Photo
Although four years of photos were missing, the Brown sisters connected one last time in 2017 for their 40th and final photo. Sadly, one of them passed away, and the others didn’t continue participating in the project.
The photos of Nicholas Nixon have resonated with people everywhere and continue to touch their hearts. His special project shows how family, strong bonds, and love are unshakable forces and that nothing can break them.