Nan Goldin Essays

So this eliminates the larger reason for having done this book — not for me, but if nobody believes it as having happened …what is the point?

Even if the answer were technically no, it would not render her accomplishment any less legitimate.

Because the continuing resonance of is cumulative; it has much more to do with the way Goldin constructs a type of filmic fiction from her life (she has often referred to the pictures as stills from a nonexistent film) and in the way she is able — through style, editing, framing, color, (noticeably corrected in the new edition) — to make scenes that are sometimes indefinable, scenes that sometimes show the deep internalization and playing out, as well as countering, of gender archetypes by herself and her subjects, that often depict intense emotional pain, or unglamorous sex.

Goldin’s camera (which also finds an equivalent in the book’s reoccurring motif of mirrors) simultaneously elicits and captures this, but mostly just epitomizes it, since, for people of a certain age or psychic disposition, the remove or idea of the camera is often present even when the mechanism is not.

In some of the pictures, one can almost witness a deep sense of relief in Goldin’s friends, as some internal narrative suddenly aligns with outward validation — oh, their faces seem to say, to really be seen.

The first chapter of the book, which shares its title, (appropriated from a musical number in the ), just seven photographs long, holds within it the main seeds of the entire work.

In the opening picture, from her birthday in 1981, Goldin stares happily into her camera, on the lap of her then boyfriend, the world-weary-looking Brian J.

Almost every time I give a talk or teach, I ask this question about truth and photography.

If all but four or five in an audience of two hundred artistic people don’t believe that photographs are true, then what does that say about the rest of the world?

If these concerns come off as slightly erroneous or overdue (haven’t photographers been using Photoshop for the last 20 years? What appears to be in question is not so much the capability ofphotography to represent the “Truth” as Goldin posits it — in the general sense of the word, it would seem people do still believe, easily at times, in photography’s ability to factually represent a certain version of the truth.

But in an art context, where the meaning or formal composition of an image, not its validity, is of central importance, to demand that photographs be literally understood as True is to impose a gratuitously limiting dictum.


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