“I used to think I couldn’t lose anyone if I photographed them enough… In fact, they show me how much I’ve lost.” – Nan Goldin
I think it’s utterly fascinating how Nan Goldin’s cutting edge style that was so revolutionary in the 1970’s has kept it’s edge and still feels so new and crisp now, 40 years later. To be honest, the only way of recognising that many of these are not modern images is the slightly dated consume and style of the characters within the scenes.
Goldin was arguably one of the biggest champions of the snapshot aesthetic within photography and had been one of the largest driving forces behind it’s rise to popularity. Neither a photographer or some might say even an artist, Goldin documented her friends and those that she spent time around. Almost the equivalent of a modern day social media addict, except film was her medium and her galleries were projections in clubs rather than Facebook.
Her images have a voyeuristic pleasure gained from examining strangers private lives. Susan Sontag said that in it’s voyeurism, photography levels all events to the same status. We usually see the images outside of their contextual framework which can lead to a disassociation from the subject matter, but Goldin originally showed her work with thematic structure revolving around subjects such as couples, gender roles and orientation. An early campaigner for sexual equality, if you will. Undoubtedly feminist although I’m not sure if she applied the label to herself.
But on a personal level what I enjoy about her work is the bravery that the images demonstrate and a desperate need to cling to memories. Almost a compulsive desire to document in case she forgot a detail. Sontag also said that photography is practiced by most not as an art, but as a way to reaffirm how we feel about those we have relationships with. The resulting images prove that the events happened and the people existed. This is demonstrated so clearly in Goldin’s work.