An American photographer, born in Washington, D.C in 1953, Nan (Nancy) Goldin, grew up in Boston in a Jewish middle class family. Prior to being introduced to the photography at the Satya Community School, in Lincoln (1968) by a teacher; Goldin went to Lexington High School. At this time she was only 15 years old and after five years she did her first solo exhibition in Boston in 1973. The photographs were based on the transsexual and gay communities of the city. In 1977/78, she worked mostly with Cibachrome prints at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from where she graduated.
At the age of 13, Goldin left home and joined a group of young strangers occupied with drugs, violence and sex. Following this, she began documenting from 1979 to 1986 on subjects like post-punk music, post Stonewall gay subculture, Bowrey’s hard drug subculture. These images depicted violence, belligerent couples and drug usage. The project was compiled in a book called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a name taken from Bertolt Brecht’s musical, Threepenny Opera. Most of the subjects of Goldin died by the 1990’s, due to AIDS or overuse of drugs. Among the people she photographed, there was Cookie Mueller (American actress) and Greer Lankton (American artist).
Since 1995, her work has displayed an extensive array of matter, such as skyline of New York; collaborative projects with Nobuyoshi Araki, Japanese photographer; parenthood; eerie landscapes of people in water; gender; sexuality; love; nudity; difference and desire – all shot with ambient light. She has captured shots of girls in bathroom, sexual acts, obsessive attitudes, and similar sights.
Most often, Nan Goldin’s work is exhibited through slideshows and shown in film festivals. One of her most famed show was of 45 minutes with 800 pictures being shown. In 2002, the Pompidou Centre in France exposed her work. The slideshows are not only interesting to watch but aesthetically appealing, even though the subjects are disturbing and deviant.
Four year later, Chasing a Ghost, her exhibition was showcased in New York. The installation included a voiceover and moving images. The work depicted Barbara’s (her sister) suicide. Goldin’s work started to develop into film making.
In 2010, Nan Goldin was commissioned by Scanlan & Theodore, an Australian brand, for its campaign. The model was Erin Wasson. In the same year, she was paid to photograph Anya Kazakova and Sean O’Pry (models) for Bottega Veneta, an opulent Italian label.
A year later, she did an advertising campaign with Linda Vojtova, a model for Jimmy Choo. Then in 2013, she did photography for a promotion by Dior, photographing Robert Pattinson for 1000 LIVES.
With all the recognition, Goldin received criticisms as well. A few critics blamed her for making drug use appear alluring and fascinating. They disliked the fact that she pioneered the grunge style, but later the same style became popular via The face and I-D, youth magazines.
Due to sexually overt content in Nan Goldin’s recent project, Brazil censored the exhibition. The reason for this was that in her pictures, sexual acts were being shown with the presence of children there. In Brazil, minors were prohibited to be associated to porn material.
In 2006, Nan Goldin was award the French Legion of Honor. A year later, she was given the Hasselblad Award. Then in 2012, she was presented with the 53rd Edrad MacDowell Medal by the MacDowell Colony.