For Nan Goldin to have titled this self-selected group of 149 photographs Thanksgiving is extremely poignant, not only in the incorporation of classic American narratives with those of her 1978-1999 New York scene, but for the survival and validation of these photographs. Goldin's works, though taken over nearly thirty years, celebrate the friendships which inspired the content of the photographs and serve as homage to those that remain only in the images and memory. Within this very personal selection of works are what have become known as Goldin's most famous images, her stills of an entire generation, and there is probably not an exhibition that has not included at least a few of these works.
When Goldin was given a camera as a teenager, it replaced the pen as the means "to [hold] on to my version of things. I realized that it was a way to make a real recordof what I had actually seen and done. It came from a very deep place, this need to record. It was all about keeping myself alive, keeping myself sane, and grounded. About being able to trust my own experience."R
Generated through intimacy rather than critique, the images have the quality of uncut gems, which are only cut and fit into thematic categories at a later date. Thanksgiving, Goldin's selection of her greatest works, is in a way a pause for her after several decades, a taking stock. Bound together only by the title and Goldin's memory, these images have survived numerous exposures in slide and gallery shows and book publishing, yet remain resilient in their emotional provocation. The grouping and title shift the focus from cultural documentation to personal survival.
One could trace much of Goldin's biography in these photos, from her Boston days, to New York post 1978, stints in Europe, lovers and friends, ex-lovers and ex-friends. If Goldin is true to her word and image, these should allow us to see her life. She cannot entirely separate her life from her images. She lives to photograph and photographs to live. Because her fingers continue to snap photos, her images and groupings, no matter how oft seen, continue to avoid historicizing and being frozen in time.