Nan Goldin (b. Washington, DC, 1953) is a notable American fine-art and documentary photographer.
She grew up 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 aged fifteen. Her first solo show was in Boston in 1973, based on her photography among the city's gay and transvestive communities, to which she had been introduced by her friend David Armstrong. It was he who re-named her "Nan". She graduated from 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, gradually being drawn in to the Bowery's hard drug subculture. These photographs, taken from 1980 to 1986, form her famous work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.1 The snapshot aesthetic images depict drug use, violent, aggressive couples and autobiographical moments. Most of her Ballad subjects were dead by the 1990s, including her close friend and often photographed subject, Cookie Mueller.
Some critics have accused her of making heroin-use appear glamourous, pioneering a grunge style that later became popularized by youth fashion magazines such as The Face and I-D. Goldin called the use of "heroin chic" to sell clothes and perfumes: "reprehensible and evil."
Her 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. This format perhaps reflects the fact that her work developed at a time when few art galleries would show photography. The main themes of her early pictures are love, gender and sexuality, usually made with available light.
Her recent pictures (since 1995) have been of Tokyo youth subcultures, including collaborative book projects with famed Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki; landscapes of New York skylines; uncanny landscapes (notably of people in water); her lover, Siobhan; babies, parenthood and family life.
She currently lives in Paris and London. The Pompidou Centre, Paris, held a major retrospective of her work in 2002. She badly smashed her hand in 2002 and surgery thus far has not been a success.
My favorite Photo book is "The Devils Playground" by Nan Goldin.