Nan Goldin (born 1953) is an American fine-art and documentary photographer.
Goldin was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the DC suburbs in Maryland, but ran away from home and was fostered by a variety of families. Her later schooling was at the Satya Community School in Boston, where a teacher introduced her to the camera in 1968, when she was fifteen years old. Her first solo show was in Boston in 1973, based on her photography among the city's gay and transvestite communities, to which she had been introduced by her friend David Armstrong. She graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University in 1977/8, where she had worked mostly with Cibachrome prints.
After graduation, she moved to New York City and began documentary photography of the post-punk new-wave music scene, and the city's vibrant gay subculture in the late 1970's and early 1980's, gradually being drawn in to the Bowery's hard drug subculture. These photographs, taken from 1979 to 1986, form her famous work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency — a title taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera. The snapshot aesthetic images depict drug use, violent, aggressive couples and autobiographical moments. Most of her Ballad subjects were dead by the 1990s due to either drug overdoses or AIDS, including close friends and often photographed subjects, Greer Lankton and Cookie Mueller. In addition to Ballad, she combined her pictures in two other series I'll Be Your Mirror (from a song on The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico) and All By Myself.
Goldin's work is most often presented in the form of a slideshow and has been shown at film festivals. Most famous is a 45 minute show in which 800 pictures are displayed. The main themes of her early pictures are love, gender, domesticity, and sexuality, usually made with available light.
Goldin's work since 1995 has included a wide array of subject matter, including collaborative book projects with famed Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki; New York skylines; uncanny landscapes (notably of people in water); her lover, Siobhan; and babies, parenthood and family life. She was the winner of the 2007 Hasselblad Award.
Goldin currently lives in New York and Paris, resulting in the Pompidou Centre holding a major retrospective of her work in 2002. Her hand was injured in a fall in 2002, and currently remains with less ability to turn it than in the past.
Some critics have accused her of making heroin use appear glamorous, and of pioneering a grunge style that later became popularized by youth fashion magazines such as The Face and I-D. However, Goldin has called the use of "heroin chic" to sell clothes and perfumes "reprehensible and evil."
Portrayal in film
The character of Lucy Berliner played by actress Ally Sheedy in the film High Art was based on Goldin's life and work.