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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nan Goldin
Nan Goldin.jpg
Goldin, 2009
Born (1953-09-12) September 12, 1953 (age 64)
Washington D.C., United States
Nationality American
Known for Photography
Notable work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986)

Edward MacDowell Medal
Hasselblad Award

French Legion of Honor

Nancy "Nan" Goldin (born September 12, 1953) is an American photographer. She lives and works in New York City, Berlin, and Paris. Her work usually features LGBT-related themes, images or public figures.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Nan Goldin - The Ballad of Sexual Dependency - MOCA U - MOCAtv
  • Nan Goldin [part 1]
  • Nan Goldin - The Ballad of Sexual Dependency - David Lynch - Photography
  • [Doku] Nan Goldin: Im Augenblick - Fotos, Freunde und Familie [HD9
  • Nan Goldin / Interview 2 of 2



Life and work

 The Hug, NYC, 1980, cibachrome, by Goldin.
The Hug, NYC, 1980, cibachrome, by Goldin.

Goldin was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the Boston suburb of Lexington, to middle-class Jewish parents. Goldin’s father worked in broadcasting, and served as the chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission.[1] After attending the nearby Lexington High School, Goldin left home at 13-14. She enrolled at the Satya Community School in Lincoln, where a teacher, philosopher Rollo May’s daughter, introduced her to the camera in 1968. Goldin was then fifteen years old. Goldin’s need to photograph and express herself to the world stemmed from her older sister Barbara’s suicide when she was only 11 years old. Struggling from such a horrific loss, Goldin went through a stage of using drugs to cope, until she fell in love with the camera, which changed her life forever. It was through her photography that Goldin found meaning, and she cherished her relationships with those she photographed. She also found the camera as a useful political tool, in order to inform the public about important issues silenced in America (O'Hagan, Sean. "Nan Goldin: 'I Wanted to Get High from a Really Early Age'") Her early influences were Andy Warhol's early films, Federico Fellini, Jack Smith, French and Italian Vogue, Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton.[2]

Her first solo show, held in Boston in 1973, was based on her photographic journeys among the city's gay and transsexual communities, to which she had been introduced by her friend David Armstrong.[3] While living in downtown Boston at age 18, Goldin “fell in with the drag queens,” living with them and photographing them.[4] Unlike some photographers who were interested in psychoanalyzing or exposing the queens, Goldin admired and respected their sexuality. Goldin said, “My desire was to show them as a third gender, as another sexual option, a gender option. And to show them with a lot of respect and love, to kind of glorify them because I really admire people who can recreate themselves and manifest their fantasies publicly. I think it’s brave”.[4] Goldin admitted to being romantically in love with a queen during this period of her life in a Q&A with “BOMB,” “I remember going through a psychology book trying to find something about it when I was nineteen. There was one little chapter about it in an abnormal psych book that made it sound so… I don’t know what they ascribed it to, but it was so bizarre. And that’s where I was at that time in my life. I lived with them; it was my whole focus. Everything I did -- that’s who I was all the time. And that’s who I wanted to be”.[4] Goldin describes her life as being completely immersed in the queens’. However, upon attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, when her professors told her to go back and photograph queens again, Goldin admitted her work was not the same as when she had lived with them. Goldin graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1977/1978, where she had worked mostly with Cibachrome prints. Her work from this period is associated with the Boston School of photography.[5]

Following graduation, Goldin moved to New York City.[6] She began documenting the post-punk new-wave music scene, along with the city's vibrant, post-Stonewall gay subculture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was drawn especially to the hard-drug subculture of the Bowery neighborhood; these photographs, taken between 1979 and 1986, form her famous work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency — a title taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera.[7] Published with help from Marvin Heiferman, Mark Holborn, and Suzanne Fletcher, these snapshot aesthetic images depict drug use, violent, aggressive couples and autobiographical moments. In her foreword to the book she describes it as a “diary [she] lets people read” of people she referred to as her “tribe”. Part of Ballad was driven by the need to remember her extended family. Photography was a way for her to hold onto her friends, she hoped.[8] The photographs show a transition through Goldin’s travels and her life.[9] Most of her Ballad subjects were dead by the 1990s, lost either to drug overdose or AIDS; this tally included close friends and often-photographed subjects Greer Lankton and Cookie Mueller.[10] In 2003, The New York Times nodded to the work's impact, explaining Goldin had "forged a genre, with photography as influential as any in the last twenty years."[11] In addition to Ballad, she combined her Bowery pictures in two other series: I'll Be Your Mirror (from a song on The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico album) and All By Myself.

Goldin's work is most often presented in the form of a slideshow, and has been shown at film festivals; her most famous being a 45-minute show in which 800 pictures are displayed. The main themes of her early pictures are love, gender, domesticity, and sexuality; these frames are usually shot with available light. She has affectionately documented women looking in mirrors, girls in bathrooms and barrooms, drag queens, sexual acts, and the culture of obsession and dependency. The images are viewed like a private journal made public.[12] In the book Auto-Focus, her photographs are described as a way to “learn the stories and intimate details of those closest to her”. It speaks of her uncompromising manner and style when photographing acts such as drug use, sex, violence, arguments, and traveling. It references one of Goldin’s famous photographs 'Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984' as an iconic image which she uses to reclaim her identity and her life.[13]

Goldin's work since 1995 has included a wide array of subject matter: collaborative book projects with Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki; New York City skylines; uncanny landscapes (notably of people in water); her lover, Siobhan; and babies, parenthood and family life.

In 2000, her hand was injured and she currently retains less ability to turn it than in the past.[14]

 Christmas at the Other Side, Boston, 1972, by Goldin.
Christmas at the Other Side, Boston, 1972, by Goldin.

In 2006, her exhibition, Chasing a Ghost, opened in New York. It was the first installation by her to include moving pictures, a fully narrative score, and voiceover, and included the three-screen slide and video presentation Sisters, Saints, & Sybils which has been described as disturbing.[citation needed] The work involved her sister Barbara's suicide and how she coped through production of numerous images and narratives. Her works are developing more and more into cinemaesque features, exemplifying her gravitation towards working with films.[15]

Goldin has undertaken commercial fashion photography – for Australian label Scanlan & Theodore's spring/summer 2010 campaign, shot with model Erin Wasson; for Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta's spring/summer 2010 campaign with models Sean O'Pry and Anya Kazakova, evoking memories of her Ballad of Sexual Dependency;[16] for shoemaker Jimmy Choo in 2011 with model Linda Vojtova;[17] and for Dior in 2013, 1000 LIVES, featuring Robert Pattinson.[18]


Some critics have accused Goldin of making heroin use appear glamorous and of pioneering a grunge style that later became popularized by youth fashion magazines such as The Face and I-D. However, in a 2002 interview with The Observer, Goldin herself called the use of "heroin chic" to sell clothes and perfumes "reprehensible and evil."[19] Goldin admits to having a romanticized image of drug culture at a young age, but she soon saw the error in this ideal: “I had a totally romantic notion of being a junkie. I wanted to be one.” Goldin’s substance usage stopped after she became intrigued with the idea of memory in her work, “When people talk about the immediacy in my work, that’s what its about: this need to remember and record every single thing”[citation needed] Goldin's interest in drugs stemmed from a sort of rebellion against parental guidance that parallels her decision to run away from home at a young age, "I wanted to get high from a really early age. I wanted to be a junkie. That's what intrigues me. Part was the Velvet Underground and the Beats and all that stuff. But, really, I wanted to be as different from my mother as I could and define myself as far as possible from the suburban life I was brought up in." [20]

Goldin denies the role of voyeur; she is instead a queer insider sharing the same experiences as her subjects: “I’m not crashing; this is my party. This is my family, my history.” She insists her subjects have veto power over what she exhibits.[21] In Fantastic Tales Liz Kotz criticizes Goldin's claim that she is just as much a part of what she is photographing rather than exploiting her subjects. Goldin’s insistence on intimacy between artist and subject is an attempt to relegitimize the codes and conventions of social documentary, presumably by ridding them of their problematic enmeshment with the histories of social surveillance and coercion, says Kotz. [Her] insider status does nothing to alter the way her pictures convert her audience into voyeurs.[8]


An exhibition of Goldin's work was censored in Brazil, two months before opening, due to its sexually explicit nature.[22] The main reason was that some of the photographs contained sexual acts performed near children.[22] In Brazil, there is a law that prohibits the image of minors associated with pornography.[23] The sponsor of the exhibition, a cellphone company, claimed to be unaware of the content of Goldin's work and that there was a conflict between the work and its educational project. The curator of the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art changed the schedule in order to accommodate, in February 2012, the Goldin exhibition in Brazil.[24]


Diane Arbus

Both Goldin and Diane Arbus celebrate those who live marginal lives.[8] Stills from Variety are compared to Arbus’ magazine work; the Variety series portray “the rich collision of music, club life, and art production of the Lower East Side pre and post AIDS period”. Both artists ask to reexamine artists' intentionality.[21]

Michelangelo Antonioni

One of the reasons Goldin began photographing was Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966). The sexuality and glamour of the film exerted a “huge effect” on her. Referring to images shown in Ballad, "the beaten down and beaten up personages, with their gritty, disheveled miens, which populate these early pictures, often photographed in the dark and dank, ramshackle interiors, relate physically and emotionally to the alienated and marginal character types that attracted Antonioni"[21]

Larry Clark

The youths in Larry Clark's Tulsa (1971) presented a striking contrast to any wholesome, down-home stereotype of the heartland that captured the collective American imagination. He turned the camera on himself and his lowlife amphetamine-shooting board of hanger-ons. Goldin would adopt Clark’s approach to image-making.[21]




Portrayal in film

The photographs by the character Lucy Berliner, played by actress Ally Sheedy in the 1998 film High Art, were based on those by Goldin.[33]

The photographs shown in the film, Working Girls (1986) as taken by the lead character "Molly," were actually those of Goldin.[34]


Books by Goldin

Books with contributions by Goldin

Selected solo exhibitions

Exhibitions curated by Goldin

  • 1991: From Desire: A Queer Diary, Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY[citation needed]
  • Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing, November 16, 1989 – January 6, 1990. New York artists responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis, with work by David Armstrong, Tom Chesley, Dorit Cypris, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Jane Dickson, Darrel Ellis, Allen Frame, Peter Hujar, Greer Lankton, Siobhan Liddel, James Nares, Perico Pastor, Margo Pelletier, Clarence Elie Rivera, Vittorio Scarpati, Jo Shane, Kiki Smith, Janet Stein, Stephen Tashjian, Shellburne Thurber, Ken Tisa, David Wojnarowicz. Wojnarowicz’s essay “Post Cards from America: X-Rays from Hell” in the Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing exhibition ignited the controversy of this exhibition, by criticizing conservative policymakers for legislation that Wojnarowicz believed would increase the spread of the disease by discouraging safe sex education.[35] Additionally, it speaks about the efficacy of making the private public. Both artists’ politics derive from the model of “outing" which was essential to the gay rights movement: empowerment begins through self-disclosure and the personal becomes political. Both artists use private relations to disrupt oppressive rules of behaviour of bourgeois society even as they fear that such private revelations will lock their subjects into frozen identities.[8] Goldin asked artists to submit pieces that they felt reflected how they responded to the AIDS epidemic. The responses varied, "out of loss comes memory pieces, tributes to friends and lovers who have died; out of anger comes explorations of the political cause and effects of the disease"(Goldin,1989).[36]


  1. ^ Deborah Solomon (October 9, 1996), Nan Goldin: Scenes From the Edge Wall Street Journal.
  2. ^ Westfall, Stephen (1991). "Nan Goldin" (Interview). BOMB Magazine. BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Burton, Johanna. "Nan Goldin". Retrieved Jan 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c Westfall, Stephen. "The Ballad of Nan Goldin." BOMB No. 37 (1991): 27-31.JSTOR. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
  5. ^ "Emotions and Relations: Photographs by David Armstrong, Nan Goldin, Philip Lorca DiCorcis, Mark Morrisroe, and Jack Pierson". photo-eye. Taschen. Archived from the original on April 25, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Nan Goldin: Scopophilia, March 21 - May 24, 2014 Gagosian Gallery, Rome.
  7. ^ Brecht, Bertolt. "Three Penny Opera." Act II, song 12.
  8. ^ a b c d Goldin, Nan (2005). Fantastic Tales. University Park, Penn. : Palmer Museum of Art in association with The Pennsylvania State University Press, c2005. ISBN 9780911209631. 
  9. ^ Goldin, Nan; Heiferman, Marvin; Holborn, Mark; Fletcher, Suzanne (2012). The ballad of sexual dependency. New York City: Aperture Foundation. ISBN 978-1-59711-208-6. 
  10. ^ Curley, Mallory. A Cookie Mueller Encyclopedia, Randy Press, 2010.
  11. ^ Tillman, Lynne. The New York Times. "A New Chapter of Nan Goldin's Diary." 16 November 2003.
  12. ^ Nan Goldin at Pa. Academy of Fine Arts, BLOUINARTINFO, September 11, 2007, retrieved 2008-04-23 
  13. ^ Bright, Susan (2010). Auto focus : the self-portrait in contemporary photography (1st American ed.). [New York]: Monacelli Press. ISBN 978-1-58093-300-1. 
  14. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (2014-03-22). "Nan Goldin: 'I wanted to get high from a really early age'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-02-16. 
  15. ^ Robert Ayers (March 27, 2006), Nan Goldin, BLOUINARTINFO, retrieved 2008-04-23 
  16. ^ Ann Binlot (January 3, 2012), Bottega Veneta Taps Jack Pierson for Latest Arty Ad Campaign BLOUINARTINFO.
  17. ^ Ann Binlot (October 18, 2011), The Ballad of Shoe Dependency: Nan Goldin Shoots a New Ad Campaign for Jimmy Choo BLOUINARTINFO.
  18. ^ "Robert Pattinson Confirmed As New Face of Dior BY CHARLOTTE COWLES". Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Sheryl Garratt (January 6, 2002), The dark room, Guardian News and Media Limited, retrieved 2010-03-08, I never took pictures of people doing heroin to sell clothes. And I have a bit of a problem with it. Like this Dior campaign right now, where the girl is really dope-sick then she sprays Addiction perfume and suddenly she's high. I find that really reprehensible and evil. 
  20. ^ 2014, Sean O'Hagan,"The Guardian","Nan Goldin:"I wanted to get high from a really early age."
  21. ^ a b c d Crump, James (2009). Variety : photographs by Nan Goldin. New York : Skira Rizzoli, 2009. ISBN 9780847832552. 
  22. ^ a b Roberta Pennafort (30 November 2011). "Cancelamento de exposição no Rio deixa artista norte-americana chocada". Estadão (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  23. ^ "L10764" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  24. ^ Martí, Silas (29 November 2011). "Oi Futuro cancela mostra da artista Nan Goldin no Rio". Folha de S. Paulo (in Portuguese). São Paulo. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  25. ^ Nan Goldin Matthew Marks Gallery, New York/Los Angeles.
  26. ^ Nan Goldin, Hasselblad Foundation, 2007, retrieved 2010-03-08 
  27. ^ Hasselblad Award Citation (PDF), Hasselblad Foundation, March 8, 2007, retrieved 2010-03-08 
  28. ^ Meghan Pierce(June 9, 2012), MacDowell will honor Nan Goldin New Hampshire Union Leader.
  29. ^ "Medal Day History". MacDowell Colony. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  30. ^ "MacDowell Medal winners 1960-2011". London: The Daily Telegraph. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  31. ^ "Nan Goldin: born 1953". Tate. Accessed 2 March 2017
  32. ^ "The Jewish Museum". Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  33. ^ Lisa Cholodenko's icy 'High Art' turns from chic comedy to humiliation
  34. ^ from the audio commentary by Lizzie Borden on the DVD of "Working Girls."
  35. ^ "Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing November 16, 1989 – January 6, 1990". 
  36. ^ Witnesses: against our vanishing, 1989. Lucy R. Lippard papers, 1930s-2010, bulk 1960s-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

External links

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