Real Pictures #11


Nic Nicosia ( American, 1951 )

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General Description

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Nic Nicosia's practice emerged alongside a generation of 1970s photographers for which staged photography was a tool to demonstrate and interrogate the constructed nature of photographic "truth." Nicosia's staged photographs focus on the conservative middle-class domesticity of the Dallas suburbs as the subject, questioning the mythos of a manicured, suburban American dream and exposing moments of violence, humor, and perversion. In the Real Pictures series, Nicosia turned to black and white film to create a sense of photojournalistic documentation, eliminating color from his photographs to destroy the fantasy.

In Real Pictures #11, three children stand with their backs to us, having just set flame to a sapling, its branches ablaze in the moments before collapse. The middle child looks back over her shoulder, eyes wide with what the fear, guilt, mesmerization, and delight of a child who has just discovered the power of fire. The dramatic and psychologically charged photograph sits intriguingly and uncomfortably in the space between violence and play, childhood and adolescence, innocent and deviance, reality and artifice.

Adapted from

Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 89.

Web Resources

  • PBS
    Watch a short video about the works of Nic Nicosia, where he "makes a picture instead of takes a picture."

  • YouTube
    Watch Nic Nicosia's staged video, "Middletown," which was filmed entirely on a suburban street in North Dallas in 1997.