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Nan Goldin in TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022

Author : Nafiseh Saleh Abadi

Reading Time : 2 Minutes

Every year, Time magazine releases a list of the 100 most influential people of the year. On the 19th list which is released in 2022, Nan Goldin has been mentioned. Nancy Goldin, who is often known as Nan Goldin in the art world, is an American 68-year-old photographer. Patrick Radden Keefe, the American writer, says about her: 

"With her impeccable eye and the zeal of a survivor, Goldin framed each protest like a photograph... She pioneered a powerful new form of activism and started an urgent conversation about tainted money in the arts."

Nan Goldin | Amanda crying on my bed | Berlin | 1992 | Source: www.nytimes.com

Nan Goldin started photography in the 1970s by taking pictures of her friends and relatives. In the 1990s her work was globally admired for the first time, therefore she achieved a fixed position in the art of photography. Her first photographs which she captured during her youth in the 1970s, were intimate portraits of her friends and became known as a series titled "Drag Queens". During the same years, she entered the School of the Fine Arts in Boston. Since she didn't have access to the darkroom and its equipment, she decided to use color slide films. In 1978, Goldin moved to southeast Manhattan, met bohemians living in the region, and became one of them by living with them and taking photographs of their moments. 

In 1979, Goldin's slides were displayed publicly for the first time at the New York Club. In addition to the slideshow, some music tracks were selected and played based on her personal relationship with her friends. During the time she was occupied by photography, artists, actors and filmmakers joined her friends circle, so she took pictures of them too. In 1985, she attended the New York Biennale for the first time. After a year, she published a photo-book that indicated her personal thoughts about certain photographic subjects such as sexual relationships, social seclusion of men, domestic violence, and drug misuse. An article by Goldin was also published in the book which clearly explained the reason for her tendency to photograph such subjects. When Nancy was 14 years old, her 18-year-old sister committed suicide. This caused Nancy a trauma which is reflected in a type of photography known as "Intimate Photography". In this kind of photography, the camera, as the medium which depicts personal experiences and spaces, provides the viewer with an opportunity to engage with the subject closely. It is also referred to as "amateurish photography" in order to clearly point to the intimacy between the photographer and her subjects. In the late 1980s, Goldin arranged multiple solo shows, and a few years later, she created a series titled "I Will Be Your Mirror" which included photographs of people suffering from AIDS and addicted to drugs. The viewers could deeply engage with these photographs because they were captured in a private space. In the next periods of her life, Goldin started to take photographs of poetic natural landscapes as she got distanced from her previous friendships.  

What distincts her from her contemporaries is the way she treats her subjects and her attitude towards photography. By following Goldin's life, one can perceive her true understanding of her subjects. Her intimate photographs are brilliant, not only because she was present in the space, but because she actually became just like her subjects. Her faithful images of her subjects' lives reveal that she may have considered photography not as her profession, but as a means of expressing her inner self. Goldin's photographs ruthlessly depict reality and have entered the art world with their explicit expression.  


Cover photo:

  • Nan Goldin | Self-Portrait in the Mirror, Hotel Baur, Zürich, 1998 | Pigment Print 

Slider photo:

  • Nan Goldin | Self-Portrait in her Blue Bathroom, Berlin 1991 | Courtesy of Nan Goldin/Matthew Marks Gallery