When Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency first appeared within the Eighties – round 700 intimate photographic slides, proven in galleries, set to music – it established a brand new uncooked commonplace of self-revelation, wherein nothing was off-limits. In it, Goldin documented her personal life within the earlier decade, the years between punk and Aids, wherein she lived as a teenage dropout amongst New York’s drag queens, when the druggy events in her loft within the Bowery district by no means ended. She made the flash-lit slides initially to entertain the buddies she photographed. She described The Ballad as “the diary I let people read”.
This image, Nan and Brian in Bed, grew to become one of many defining photos of the collection. It reveals Goldin trying with narrowed eyes at her lover, an workplace employee and ex-marine, whom she had met whereas working in a bar on Tin Pan Alley. She views him bare as a voyeur, subverting the traditional dynamics of the male gaze. The pair of them have been consumed, The Ballad reveals, by heroin and lust and, ultimately, violence. On a visit to Berlin in 1984, Brian burned Goldin’s journals and beat her so badly that she practically misplaced a watch. “Confronting my normal ambivalence had betrayed his absolute notion of romance,” she mentioned. The disturbing post-coital pressure right here prefigures her harrowing self-portrait on the centre of the collection: Nan one month after being battered.
Goldin’s work is the inspiration for a brand new exhibition in Paris, Love Songs, which collects photos that confront the compulsive and harmful energy of intimacy. Few of these photos have fairly the directness as her unique Ballad, nevertheless, which has been consistently revised and re-edited by Goldin within the years since, the signature file of a protracted misplaced time and place. “I didn’t care about ‘good’ photography,” she famously mentioned. “I cared about complete honesty.”
Love Songs: Photography and Intimacy is at MEP, Paris, from 30 March–21 August