Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

A Record Of Real Life: Nan Goldin

What a great resource Faded + Blurred is, you really should bookmark the site and go there often. This time we get one of their spotlights on an important photographer. The ever divisive Nan Goldin. Divisive? Well most people don’t get her work, don’t like it, find it difficult but she remains a major figure in contemporary photography. It is easy to see the line between her work and say that of Richard Billingham and his series on his parents “Ray’s a laugh”

“I knew from a very early age, that what I saw on TV had nothing to do with real life. So I wanted to make a record of real life. That included having a camera with me at all times.” – Nan Goldin

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Do you ever look at someone’s work and think “I just don’t get it. Why is this important? Why is it in a gallery?” I have thought that of Nan Goldin’s work for years. To be honest, her work just dumbfounded me. How could this be considered art? I always thought they were just poorly lit, grainy snapshots. I wouldn’t take more than a fleeting glance without immediately passing judgment that I didn’t like it and therefore it wasn’t worth my time to examine or understand. As I was looking for a subject for the Spotlight, Nan Goldin’s name was suggested and my gut reaction was no. I realized, however, that if I don’t like something the least I can do is ask myself why not. I have come to the conclusion that all art is worthy of examination and questioning. If you don’t know anything about the work, you should find out as much as you can and you may come to appreciate it. Understanding the why behind what someone does can influence and sometimes even change your opinion of the work itself.

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Even if you’re not familiar with many photographers by name, you may have heard the name Nan Goldin. Since the 1970s, she has been known for her shockingly raw images of desire, addiction, sexuality, and abuse. Her style is a part of the “snapshot aesthetic” which became popular in the early 60s and contains everyday subjects that don’t seem to be framed in any particular way. Goldin’s work, however, can’t be defined by just one particular style. When you find out what it was she was trying to do with her pictures, you learn that there are layers of meaning that go far beyond the first cursory glance. READ MORE HERE

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Goldin was born in 1953 in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Living behind a facade of perfection and respectability, her parents taught her that there were certain things you just didn’t talk about – the biggest being her older sister’s suicide at the age of 19. Goldin was only 11 at the time and withdrew into herself. She says she didn’t speak for a very long time, but she still managed to cause trouble. She ran away at 14 and ended up in several different foster homes, but it was during this period that she was enrolled in an alternative education program. This was a place for kids that had been kicked out of “normal” schools – she says they all did drugs, had sex, and partied – but it was a place where she found people she connected with. It was here where she was given her first camera, a Polaroid, by a teacher. After that, the camera rarely left her hand.

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See the full article on Faded + Blurred here

 

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