Nan Goldin was born on September 12, 1953 in Washington D.C. and currently works in New York City, Paris, and Berlin. Goldin began to delve in photography as a teenager, citing Federico Fellini, early Warhol films, and Helmut Newton as her major influences. She attended the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and had her first solo show in Boston in 1973.
Her photography at the time revolved around themes of alternative lifestyles, the transgender community (namely photographing drag queens), and other subcultures concerning drugs, sexuality, and gender. Her most famous work and self-proclaimed diary is The Ballad of Sexual Desires: a slideshow consisting of intimate shots of close friends who were a part of the Bowery neighborhood in New York.
The American photographer’s post-1995 work is incorporates more familial themes and includes landscapes and skylines. She has had two major retrospectives, one of which took place in the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1996 and the other in 2001 at the Centre Pompidou. In 2006, she had her first moving picture exhibition entitled “Chasing a Ghost”. That same year she was admitted into the French Legion of Honor and shortly after, in 2007, she received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award.
Goldin’s work is deeply personal and intimate in an almost uncomfortable way. This discomfort can be attributed to the recognition of the gaze in her work. One is reminded of seeing the self as another, or outside of the self, through the subject’s momentary entrancement in a thought or feeling. The warmth and haziness in her photos make the photographs, themselves, appear to be memories without any hint of temporality. Her work unapologetically leaves a sense of glamour and fantasy in the depths of these subcultures and reality.
Text by Perwana Nazif
Images courtesy of Nan Goldin