Niall McDiarmid on ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’, a personal reflection

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Thanks to Niall McDiarmid for this personal reflection, for those that do not know Niall, you can check out his fantastic ‘Crossing Paths’ project here. And follow on twitter here – @niallmcdiarmid

In the late 90s I picked up a first edition of Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency in a well-known secondhand shop on London’s King Road. Surprisingly it was only £6, a bargain as it transpired, piled among other reduced to clear gardening titles.

I had read of it but in those pre-internet days, not seen the work.  It seems odd to think that book dealers would overlook such a collectable title now but on a quick glance, it’s easy to understand why. The book has the feeling of a self-published, 5 year long personal photo-diary of a group of 20 somethings having a hedonistic lifestyle that started as fun but ended a little dark and dangerous. Snapshots, direct flash, sex, drugs, drag queens, domestic violence, good times, bad times are all there.

Although most of the pictures are captioned, I found myself flicking through trying to work out who was who, what the relationships between the characters were, how they happened to end up in New York, London, Brighton, Berlin etc. I have the feeling that over the 5 years there were many shots taken but the editing is really well done and it sits together like it all took place over a couple of weeks

There are echoes of predecessors like William Eggleston and Gary Winogrand in the work but to me really it seems like a new direction in photography that led to many others well-known names such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Terry Richardson, Corinne Day and Ryan McGinley.

Anyway, it’s a great book and worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

– Niall McDiarmid

©NAN GOLDIN