Nan Goldin Essays

Nan Goldin Essays-9
Ordered thematically and set into miniature chapters, the titles are almost all taken from songs Goldin uses in her slideshow (she began setting the photographs to music in 1982).Her selection of song-based titles — leaning heavily on the Velvet Underground, but also including 1950s R&B and doo wop, blues, 1960s pop (“Downtown,” “Don’t Make Me Over”) and “Casta Divana” from a Bellini opera — though not as powerful without the actual music, add an element of lightly sardonic juxtaposition to certain sequences (if listened to with Paul Anka’s version of the song, “Lonely Boy,” a series of pictures of unsuspecting men by themselves, for example, is particularly funny) and dramatic tone to others.

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Almost every time I give a talk or teach, I ask this question about truth and photography.

If all but four or five in an audience of two hundred artistic people don’t believe that photographs are true, then what does that say about the rest of the world?

The question, for the time being, seems almost irrelevant.

And so, the question of whether Goldin’s photos are True or not — by which one assumes she means (Photoshop aside) whether the images were made for the camera or were recorded in the midst of their natural unfolding by the virtue of a camera being present — feels like something of an afterthought.

¤ The book form of consists of 125 color photographs.

The dates of the pictures cover Goldin’s 20s, beginning in 1976, when she was 23 and living in Provincetown, studying photography at the Museum School in Boston, and continue through 1985, including seven years spent in New York City.

The first chapter of the book, which shares its title, (appropriated from a musical number in the ), just seven photographs long, holds within it the main seeds of the entire work.

In the opening picture, from her birthday in 1981, Goldin stares happily into her camera, on the lap of her then boyfriend, the world-weary-looking Brian J.

As the curator and photo historian John Szarkowski writes in his introduction to William Eggleston’s first book of photographs, : “Form is perhaps the point of art.

The goal is not to make something factually impeccable, but seamlessly persuasive.” Twenty-five years after it was released as a book, and over 30 since its first presentation as a slideshow (at a celebration of Frank Zappa’s birthday at the Mudd Club on New York’s Lower East Side in 1979), is still a striking work for the very reason that it is both raw document and utter construction. Hoberman called it, both a “diary and a soap-opera.” And, if the emotional tenor of the bookoccasionally rises to the brink of melodrama, in other moments, when Goldin’s subjects, her friends, are given the opportunity to pose, not only for her, but for an idea of posterity, or to show themselves as they might like to be perceived, a more subtle, self-reflexive kind of drama emerges — a tension perhaps especially common during the self-consciousness of youth.


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