Nan Goldin

In the 1970s, Manhattan’s Lower East Side became the neo-frontier of an adventurous avant-garde. Attracted by the cheap rents and dilapidated housing, grass-roots art collectives and club promoters moved in and began staging ad hoc art and music events. Before long, this deprived area became synonymous with radical experimentation and transgression. One photographer who witnessed this explosion of creativity was Nan Goldin. Her documentation of the time is now seen as a swansong to this heady era.

Goldin was born in 1953 into a middle-class family; her father worked as an economist. When Goldin was 11 years old, her older sister committed suicide. This cataclysmic event has often been linked to Goldin’s obsessive desire to document her personal history.

The first photographs she took were empathetic portrayals of drag queens, their daily lives and their social circles. After studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Goldin moved to the Lower East Side, where she continued to use her camera to chronicle the intimate lives of her friends.

These photographs were made into slideshows which Goldin would present in nightclubs, accompanied by a live soundtrack. Later, in 1986, she published them in a book called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. It was a personal contemplation of the nature of sexual relationships, male social isolation, domestic violence and substance abuse and was shockingly frank.

By the early 1990s, Goldin’s photographs had gained international acclaim. Her 20-year record of her friends’ lives, in which the impact of HIV and AIDS, drug addiction and rehabilitation were registered, offered audiences a profound engagement with social issues.

Now considered one of the most influential figures of the confessional photography genre, in 2007 Goldin was presented with the Hasselblad Award for photography. In 2012, she published The Devil’s Playground, a major collection of her photographs interspersed with text, poems and lyrics by writers including Nick Cave and Cookie Mueller.

In recent years, Goldin has become a leading campaigner for victims of America’s opioid epidemic. A recovering OxyContin addict herself, in 2017 she founded the advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). She is an outspoken critic of the Sackler family for their involvement in Purdue Pharma, and staged ‘die-in’ protests in Sackler-funded rooms of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim Museum and other major institutes. A 2022 documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, chronicles her life, career and activism.

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Ballad Triptych

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC, 1983

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Cookie Mueller

Nan Goldin (née en 1953)

Nan and Brian on the bed, New York, 1983

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Nan and Brian in Bed, N.Y.C., 1983

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Greer and Robert in the bed, NYC

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Nan & Brian in Bed, NYC

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Misty & Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC

Nan Goldin (B. 1953)

Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the Bathroom, NYC 1991

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

CZ and Max on the beach, Truro, MA, 1976

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, NYC

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Nan after being battered, 1984

Nan Goldin (b. 1953)

Self portrait in my blue bathroom, Berlin

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait in the Blue Mirror, Berlin

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

French Chris at the Drive-In, New Jersey

Nan Goldin (née en 1953)

Anthony by the sea, Brighton, England, 1979

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait Alone

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Valérie, Axel and Johanna at Le Pulp

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

French Chris on the convertible, New York City, 1979

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Gilles and Gotscho

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

French Chris on convertible, NYC, 1979

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Guido on the Dock, Venice

Nan Goldin (B. 1953)

Self Portrait in Kimono with Brian

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Breakfast in bed, Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo, Florence, Italy, 1996

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Self-portrait in blue bathroom, London, 1980

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait in Kimono with Brian, NYC, 1983

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Greer and Robert on the Bed NYC

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Couple in Bed, Chicago

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Greer and Robert on the Bed, 1982

Nan Goldin (b. 1953)

Self Portrait in the Mirror, The Lodge, Belmont, Ma., 1988

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Self-Portrait on the Train, Germany, 1992

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Casta Diva 1993-95/2000

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Joana with Valerie and Reine in the Mirror, L'Hotel des Beaux Arts, Paris, 1999

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Ivy in Boston Garden (back view) Boston

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Self-Portrait in Blue Bathroom, London, 1980

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Anthony by the Sea, Brighton, England, 1979

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Greer and Robert on the bed, New York City, 1982

Nan Goldin (B. 1953)

Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, NYC 1991.

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

French Chris at the Drive-in, NJ

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Risé and Monty Kissing, NYC

Nan Goldin (née en 1953)

Joey at the Love Ball, NYC, 1991

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Couple in Bed, Chicago, 1977

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Joana in the Doorway Looking at Aurele, Chateau du Neuf, Avignon

NAN GOLDIN (NÉE EN 1953)

Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984

Nan Goldin (Washington - Née en 1953)

Volcano at Dawn, Stromboli, Italy, 1996

NAN GOLDIN (B. 1953)

Three Early Works, 1973