March 21, 2007
Nan Goldin was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Maryland but was raised in various foster homes after running away from her biological parents. Her older sister committed suicide and she sought comfort during that time from her friends and family and later decided to live in various foster homes after realizing that conventional family life was not for her. Soon after she enrolled in an alternative school and because the memories of her sister were becoming vague and hazy, Goldin decided to use photography as a way to preserve the world around her and her life. Her photography has become known as her work as well as her life because she takes the subjects she uses on a more personal level. At college, Goldin met two people who would influence her life greatly, David Armstrong and Suzanne Fletcher. They would dress up for one another and experiment in cross-dressing, which led to Goldin’s fascination with blurring the lines of gender separation. Through Armstrong, she discovered the drag subculture and saw the lifestyle as yet another way to reinvent oneself and she reinforced the idea by taking photographs of men in drag. Her most famous work however is called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which depicted controversial subject matter such as drug use and violent, abusive relationships. Most of the subjects in Ballad died in the 1990s from drug overdoses or AIDS, including Goldin’s close friend Cookie Mueller. Goldin herself has been often criticized for her use of heroin in her photographs by making it appear to be glamorous, which began the grunge style in youth magazines despite the fact that Goldin called using heroin to sell clothing and perfume a reprehensible evil.