“There is a popular notion that the photographer is by nature a voyeur, the last one to be invited to the party. But I’m not crashing; this is my party. This is my family, my friends.”
Nan Goldin (born in 1953 in Washington D.C., USA) is a survivor – and one of the most controversial photographers of out times. She lived a life on the fast lane; to the fullest, excessive. Sex, drugs and wild parties in the subculture of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. Nan Goldin and her circle of friends made up of gays, lesbians and drag queens were a group of free spirits, nonconformists who lived by their own rules in the underground clubs and bars of the Big Apple. All creatures of the night.
By now, many of them have died. Some of Aids, others of drug-abuse. But they live on in the images Nan Goldin took of them. Images that at first glance seem like snapshots. In fact Nan Goldin herself once labeled them as such saying that “snapshots are the only form of photography that are inspired completely by love”. Nan Goldin wanted to show life as it is, without filters; life itself: a “record of real life”.
Nan Goldin often showed her subjects in situations in which one would normally prefer not be photographed: after sex, during sex, high on drugs or marked by bruises from physical violence. In her photography she crossed the line of intimacy. But not as a voyeur, but as an invited guest – or better said: a friend. Her disturbingly open images were possible because she belonged to the inner circle of the people she photographed. She had the trust of her protagonists. Trust to such extend that the people in the images seem to have completely forgotten about the presence of the camera. That way Nan Goldin was able to create a private visual diary telling about gender identity, sexuality, violence – but also about love and intimacy.
“Photography as a means to create an intimate visual diary that would reveal a world that most people would have never been able to look at.”
In the case of Nan Goldin, work and life of the artist are so closely connected that they are almost one. She was one of the first artists who used photography as a means to create an intimate visual diary that would reveal a world that most people would have never been able to look at – or would have never thought it even existed.
One of Nan Goldin’s most famous works is “The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency”. It’s a slide show of around 700 images with music first shown at the Whitney-Biennale in 1978. After that it’d been shown in many parts of the world in different arrangements. In 1986 is was released as a book.
The 5 Best Photography Movies About Nan Goldin
- “The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency”: This slide show of images taken in the New York City subculture that Nan Goldin was part of during the 1970s was first shown in 1978 accompanied by music from Velvet Underground, for example. In this version the soundtrack comes from “The Tiger Lillies”.
- “Contacts Vol. 2, Portraits of Contemporary Photographers: Nan Goldin”: Very intimate documentary in which the artist talks about her life, her drug addiction and approach of photography: “Each image reminds me of how much I’ve lost.”
- “Chasing A Girl” – 2009 Sem Presser Lecture: Nan Goldin talking about her career and documenting each step with images, explaining the circumstances and stories behind the photographs.
- Nan Goldin “I Remember Your Face” (Trailer): Nan Goldin today visiting Berlin and remembering the past.
- Nan Goldin “Poste Restante – Vernissage 09.10.09 in Berlin”: Opening words from Nan Goldin at an exhibition of her work in Berlin.
If you are interested in photography films, please check out the list of the 10 best photography movies of all times.