Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin
Date of birth
12 Sep 1953
Place of birth
Washington, D.C./United States of America
Goldin began taking photographs as a teenager in Boston, MA. Her earliest works, black-and-white images of drag queens, were celebrations of the subcultural lifestyle of the community to which she belonged. She has often said of her work that it documents an extended family, a statement testified by the informality and intimacy of her pictures. During a period of study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she began displaying her work in the format of a slide-show, a constantly evolving project that acquired the title The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (appropriated from The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht) in 1981. This collection of images had a loose thematic structure and was usually shown with an accompanying sound-track, first in the clubs where many of the images were taken and then within gallery spaces. She carried on with work on The Ballad throughout the 1980s and 1990s, documenting the alternative scene not only in New York, where she was living and working, but also in Europe, especially in Berlin; the project also toured extensively in Europe during this period. In the 1990s Goldin continued to produce portraits of drag queens, but also made images of friends who were dying of AIDS and recorded her experiences travelling in Asia. The latter resulted in a book and exhibition, Tokyo Love: Spring Fever 1994, a collaboration with the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. In this collection of portraits Goldin found a strong equivalent for her Western community in the East. In 1995 she worked with the British film maker Edmund Coulthard to create a film about her life and work, I’ll Be Your Mirror (London, Blast! Films for BBC-TV, 1995). In 1996 Goldin’s reputation was further enhanced by a highly influential retrospective, centred around The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, at the Whitney Museum, New York.