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Couple in Bed, Chicago © Nan Goldin 1977 | Image source internet
Couple in Bed, Chicago © Nan Goldin 1977 | Image source internet

Nan Goldin

The camera is as much a part of my everyday life as talking or eating or sex.

Nan Goldin

Nancy “Nan” Goldin (born September 12, 1953) is an American photographer. Her work often explores LGBT bodies, moments of intimacy, the HIV crisis, and the opioid epidemic. Her most notable work is The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986), which documents the post-Stonewall gay subculture and Goldin’s family and friends. She lives and works in New York City, Berlin, and Paris.

Leaving home at age 13, after her elder sister’s suicide, Goldin lived in foster homes and attended an alternative school in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Suspicious of middle-class myths of romantic love between the sexes and mourning a sister who took her own life in 1964, Goldin sought a substitute family for her own blood relations. In doing so, she became part of a group of alienated young men and women involved with drugs, sex, and violence.

Much influenced by cinéma verité and no doubt aware of the work of American photographer Larry Clark, Goldin took up photography about 1971. Her first published works (1973) were black-and-white images of transvestites and transsexuals. In 1974 she began to study art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she embarked on an enormous portrait of her life, making hundreds of colour transparencies of herself and her friends lying or sitting in bed, engaged in sexual play, recovering from physical violence against them, or injecting themselves with drugs. Her involvement in this hermetic world was revealed in a diaristic narrative sequence of often unfocused but strongly coloured transparencies arranged as a slide show entitled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981). Accompanied by a musical score that mixed rock, blues, opera, and reggae, the presentation was initially shown in nightclubs and eventually in galleries. Goldin continued to work on this project throughout the 1980s, and it was reproduced in 1986 in book form.

Continuing to photograph drag queens in the 1990s, she also created a series of images called—in reference to Edward Steichen’s humanistic and influential “Family of Man” exhibition of 1955—The Family of Nan, 1990–92, in which she documented her friends’ AIDS-related deaths. She photographed Japanese youths while traveling in Asia, and in 1995 she published those images in the book Tokyo Love: Spring Fever 1994. In 1995 she also made a biographical film for the BBC titled I’ll Be Your Mirror (with filmmaker Edmund Coulthard). In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Goldin was the subject of retrospective exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (1996–97) and at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2001). She was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2007 Hasselblad Award, an annual award granted by the Hasselblad Foundation to “a photographer recognized for major achievements.”

Like Diane Arbus and Larry Clark, to whom she is often compared, Goldin expands and embellishes on the informal, content-driven aesthetic of the snapshot. Her style is one of sensuous immediacy, fueled by a potent fusion of opulent, saturated colors and artificial light. Her preferred settings are the interior spaces in which private dramas get played out: cluttered kitchens and bathrooms, downtown bars and rumpled beds. And her eye is acutely attuned to the intricate negotiations between people and their surroundings: women scrutinize their images in bathroom mirrors, men gaze pensively out of car windows, couples colonize the intimate geography of the bedroom. Among Goldin’s greatest strengths is her use of color as a catalyst for amplifying the emotional tenor of the moment.

Published on January 10, 2021
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2021-04-07T13:44:52+05:30
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