Thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion on Nan Goldin’s ‘Ballad Of Sexual Dependencey’. It has been a great month. We have compiled an archive of the posts below for future reference and will also be listed under the reading list page.
I have never truly enjoyed Goldin’s ‘Ballad’ as much as I feel I should, but I have always had a copy on my shelf.
I have it because of the confirmation it provides that turning one’s camera onto your own ‘tribe’, onto what you know and live, can be as interesting as a trans-continental adventure with a plate camera and entourage of assistants. Goldin’s friends and ‘characters’ may be more universally interesting than many but if another photographer had parachuted into these situations, the result I am sure, would not be looked at with the same appreciation ‘Ballad’ is today.
I have a copy of ‘Ballad’ to challenge me, I have bought too many books based on their aesthetics and subject matter that have gone on to rarely be opened. I know what is in them, I understand it, I like it, I know it. ‘Ballad’ is a beautifully honest, yet awkward film to me, the kind that you will keep watching, and re-watch, and discuss, but never truly understand, and never fully enjoy.
I am also frustrated by the book. I am aware that a book may rarely give a complete view of a subject, but ‘Ballad’ seems to be missing so much, the work lives far beyond the pages, in slide shows, and music and talks, in bars and rooms once occupied by Goldin and her tribe. I feel the book only scratches the very surface of a much larger being.
I am glad to hear others views on this book, if only to be reassured that I am not the only one who has a strange respect rather than love relationship with it.
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.
Thanks to Lloyd Spencer for this reflection on Goldin’s book. If you would like to share your thoughts, see here.
A fascinating, compelling book. “Diary” is correct as it is the rather seedy and dissolute life that provides the real interest. Writing compellingly about such a life requires more skill than taking photos. Finding the words for the chaotic collisions, the violence or traces of violence, deciding how much to quote or report, what perspective to adopt: photography doesn’t really pose any of these challenges.
Nan Goldin emerges as a competent photographer and someone who probably lived her life (or her life ‘then’) as a kind of unfolding photobook . . .
The result is a pretty unique work. But unique (unmatched) also in Goldin’s subsequent career…
As mentioned in a previous post, there is an abundance of online resources for those looking to learn more about both ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ and Nan Goldin herself. A few of the many great videos/slideshows are shown below: (And if you think we have missed a key piece, let us know.
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Nan Goldin and The Tiger Lilies, Les Rencontres d’Arles, 11 July 2009 (Slideshow)
Nan Goldin: Contacts Vol2 slideshow/narration
Nan Goldin: I’ll be your mirror (Documentary)
Nan Goldin: Photography and Love (Extract from BBC series ‘Genius of Photography’
There is an abundance of online resources for those looking to learn more about both ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ and Nan Goldin herself. I have compiled just a few of these together, firstly looking at interviews:
Nan Goldin interviewed by Adam Mazur and Paulina Skirgajllo-Krajewska
Quote: “I went to school and there was a teacher who showed me Larry Clark. It has entirely changed my work. I knew that there had been somebody else who had done [photographed] their own life.”
‘The Dark Room’: Nan Goldin interviewed by Sheryl Garratt
Quote: “The music we were brought up on, the TV, the movies, the images our parents gave us aren’t of what relationships are really like. They didn’t prepare me, at least, for the ambivalence that’s normal in any real relationship”
I’ll be your Mirror: Interview with Nan Goldin by Kathy High
Quote: “The most important thing about this film to me is that unlike slide shows, you can’t update them, and that everybody’s life has changed so much since that film. Greer is dead. David broke up with his boyfriend. Sharon and her girlfriend broke up. Both David and Sharon have lost about forty pounds. Bruce is back on drugs. There’s no way to update it, so it seems like historical fact, where it was only true for that year.”
And bonus: Nan Goldin interviews Nobuyoshi Araki “We met for the first time at Dug, his regular jazz bar in Shinjuku, where he presented me with a bottle of I.W. Harper Bourbon (his favorite drink) with my name on it. Now it’s stored there next to Robert Frank’s.”
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Nan Goldin as her “tribe.” Her work describes a world that is visceral and seething with life. As Goldin writes: “Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life.”
“Goldin, at the age of 33, has created an artistic masterwork that tells us not only about the attitudes of her generation, but also about the times in which we live.”—Andy Grundberg, The New York Times
“Goldin’s prescient philosophy has, if anything been solidified by the intervening decade, and her Ballad resounds more poignantly than ever in its tenth-anniversary republication.”—Lawrence Schubert, Detour magazine
If you would like to receive 10% off this title, see here for a deal with the kind folks at Aperture