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Nan Goldin (American, b.b. 1953)


Also known as:  NAN GOLDIN

Birth Place: Washington (DC, United States)

Nan Goldin (September 12, 1953 - ) is an American photographer known for her photographs that often explore the LGBT culture, intimate moments, the HIV crisis, and the opioid epidemic.

She was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the Boston suburb of Lexington. When Goldin was eleven years old, her sister committed suicide, prompting her to leave home. She enrolled herself in the progressive Satya Community School in Lincoln, and it was there that she was introduced to photography by a teacher who passed out Polaroid cameras to all of the students.

In the early 1970s, Goldin started shooting black and white photographs of her friends in Boston’s transvestite community, and in 1973 she had her first solo exhibition at Project, Inc. She received her BFA from Tufts University in 1977.

In contrast to other photographers who sought to psychoanalyze drag queens and their culture, Goldin admired their sexuality. In her words, “My desire was to show them as a third gender, as another sexual option, a gender option. And to show them with a lot of respect and love, to kind of glorify them because I really admire people who can recreate themselves and manifest their fantasies publicly. I think it’s brave.”

After moving to New York, Goldin became involved in the downtown New Wave scene, showing slide shows (her preferred method of presentation throughout her career) of her images at punk rock music venues. These images laid the groundwork for her most notable series entitled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1980-86). This work presents over 700 images documenting the post-Stonewall gay subculture, as well as images of Goldin’s family and friends. The richly colored, snapshot-style series of intimate details of the artist’s life was groundbreaking and boosted Goldin’s reputation as an important contributor to fine art photography. The work was shown at the Whitney Biennial in 1985, as well the Edinburgh and Berlin film festivals in 1985 and 1986.

In 1988, Goldin entered a rehabilitation clinic, but she never stopped documenting her experiences, including her time hospitalized. As her life progressed, so did her creative work. Goldin’s images transitioned from the subject of destructive youthful abandon to parenthood and the domestic life. In collaboration with photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, she published Tokyo Love in 1994, a series depicting scenes of Japanese youth.

Goldin has had several solo shows throughout her fruitful career, including a mid-career retrospective and the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1996, as well as a traveling retrospective organized by the Centre George Pompidou in Paris and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 2001.

Among her many awards, Goldin has received the Englehard Award from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 1986; the Photographic Book Prize of the Year from Les Rencontres d’Arles in 1987; the Camera Austria Prize for Contemporary Photography in 1989; and the Hasselblad Award in 2007. She also received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991.

Currently, Goldin lives and works in New York, Paris, and London.

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