(United States of America 12 Sep 1953 – )
72.0 x 104.0 cm frame
Nan Goldin’s work has been of considerable influence in terms of contemporary photographic practice, compelling in its intimate and candid telling and re-telling of the lives of those close to her. Of her viewpoint Goldin has said: 'I don’t believe in the single portrait. I believe only in the accumulations of portraits as a representation of a person.’1 Her first major work, ‘The ballad of sexual dependency’ 1978–88, for example, encompasses hundreds of images and, as a slide and sound performance, has been reconfigured variously with each new presentation. Her diaristic impulse is obsessive and of this recording Goldin has said: ‘One of the reasons I took pictures all along was to keep people with me.’2 Goldin’s work draws on American photographic and performance traditions, particularly the work of Larry Clark and Robert Frank which showed the underbelly of American life in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
‘Max at Sharon's apartment with a photograph of his mother, NYC’ was recorded seven years after the death of his mother, the actress and writer Cookie Mueller. Friends since 1976, Goldin had chronicled Mueller’s life until her death in 1989. The portrait of Max includes various photographs of Mueller in the background and a reflection of Goldin and her camera in the mirror. The triangular relationship as pictured between Max, his mother and Goldin encapsulates the complexities of love, life, death, memory, past and present time. Of this later period of work Goldin has observed that it is, ‘more and more about contemplation and self, and identity, and less about crisis or euphoria’.3
1. 'On acceptance: a conversation, Nan Goldin talking with David Armstrong and Walter Keller', in Goldin N, Armstrong D & Holzwarth H W eds 1996, 'I'll be your mirror', Whitney Museum of American Art, New York/Scalo, Zurich p 454
2. Dieckmann K 1990, 'Back from the brink', 'Village Voice', 18 Sep p 71
3. ibid p 453
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Judy Annear, Look, 'The family of Nan', pg.8-9, Newtown, Feb 2003, 9 (colour illus.).
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - people', pg.246-265, Sydney, 2007, 249 (colour illus.), 261 (colour illus.).
Nan Goldin, The devil's playground, 2003, 136-137 (colour illus.).
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012