Self-portrait with eyes turned inward, Boston
United States of America
12 Sep 1953 -
Nan Goldin's work has been of considerable influence globally in terms of contemporary photographic practice. Goldin has drawn on American photographic and performance traditions (particularly the work of Larry Clark and Robert Frank both of which showed the underbelly of US life in the 1950s, 60s and 70s) in the development of her 'Ballad of Sexual Dependency'. This important slide, spoken word piece which began in 1981 and continues to be re-edited, was performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 1997. Another, shorter slide piece was seen in the Biennale of Sydney 1996. By the time Goldin performed the 'Ballad...' in Sydney her international reputation had been well established through books and single images.
The complexities of human relationships have preoccupied Goldin since the 1970s when she began to photograph and she has continued to build loose narratives depicting the vagaries of life. Until recently, Goldin concentrated on the lives of her intimates and the nature of her relationships with these. At the centre is always Goldin - her face and her interpretations of events. The work is obsessive and Goldin has said, 'One of the reasons I took pictures all along was to keep people with me...' While realizing the futility of this obsession, she has also said 'I want these to work like a storyboard for memory rather than memory itself.'
Goldin says that she photographs with a warm not a cold eye, that she sees her photographs as a caress and never analysis. The artist attempts to draw her audience into the world which she inhabits and to share its pleasures and pains.
Goldin has completely opened out the meaning of the photograph as art in her documenting of those considered to be outsiders because she eschewed the idea of encapsulation through 'the decisive moment'. While the production values of Goldin's photographs are now very high, the nature of her photographs has been as influential as the content: the use of colour with little regard for its formal representation, and the lack of interest in the conventions of framing and portraiture both mean that the artist took considerable risks in order to get the images which have become iconic. This almost accidental mode of photography can now be seen on the pages of most contemporary magazines and has revolutionized fashion and portrait photography.
The three selected photographs by Goldin are important in her overall oeuvre for a number of reasons. The 1989 'Self-portrait' is one of a number taken in a Boston clinic where she began to pull her life back together after years of self-abuse and witnessing the destruction of her circle through drugs and AIDS related illness. The 1990 portrait of Siobhan is part of a large and lyrical body of work on this subject and represents a high point in their relationship which began after Goldin's release from the clinic. The poignant and complex 1996 portrait of Max encapsulates the past, present and future as the son of Cookie Mueller is contemplated by Goldin and her camera - in a mirror.
72.0 x 104.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated label u.l.corner verso frame, black ink "...1989... Nan Goldin".
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2002
Not on display
© Nan Goldin
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 4 publications
Judy Annear, Look, 'The family of Nan', pg.8-9, Sydney, Feb 2003, 8 (colour illus.).
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - people', pg.246-265, Sydney, 2007, 261 (colour illus.).
American beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Sydney, 2003. no catalogue numbers
Nan Goldin: I'll be your mirror, New York, 1996, 239-240.