Nan Goldin

In 1986, Nan Goldin turned one of her pieces, a constantly changing and developing slide show, into a photo book titled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, in which she recorded her own life and that of her friends (her ‘tribe’) in the nineteen-seventies and -eighties, as they moved between drugs, partying, sex, and violence. She tells her story in over 900 snapshots in a style redolent of a diary or family album. While she was making Ballad in New York, Berlin, London, and Boston, she carried her camera with her wherever she went—it was like an extension of her hand. She took most of the pictures indoors, using a flash, and indeed many of them convey a sense of confinement. Here, the predominant factor is not so much the technical quality of the prints but rather the themes on which the artist chose to focus: she was clearly concerned with capturing intimate moments of love, violence, and loss as honestly and candidly as possible. Goldin took the photograph in the exhibition, Nan One Month After Being Battered, following a fight with her then-boyfriend, Brian. In the photograph, the artist directs her gaze straight at the lens. In her sore, made-up face, the red lipstick reciprocates the lurid red of the hemorrhage in her bruised left eye. After this picture— which, like the whole series, is a record of things that actually happened—Goldin gave her life a new direction, broke off her long-term relationship, and went traveling in Europe, leaving her Ballad days behind her.