Photography is art that captures life and preserves forever, a single moment in time. Perhaps no one has been better at documenting life, relationships and culture in the gay and transgender communities (and, to a lesser extent in the lesbian community) than American photographer Nan Goldin.
Picking just one book that documents her body of work is impossible. There are so many photographs for which she is known. Her first solo show, at age 20, documented life in Boston’s gay and transsexual communities. She worked extensively to photograph and document the gay and drug subcultures of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. She saw the deaths of many friends from overdose and AIDS.
Her “seminal” work is definitely her compilation titled, Nan Goldin: The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency. These are deeply disturbing, haunting sometimes brutal images of sex, and sexual battery including photos of the author herself – in at least one of which where she has just been beaten by her lover, and of her friends and acquaintances.
The book above is 2005 reprint in trade paper covers of the 1986 original hardcover. While neither is inexpensive, both are available if you can handle them.
The book that caught my recent interest was the December 1998 publication by the Stern Portfolio Library simply titled, Portfolio: Nan Goldin.
This book is comprised of 55 excellent selected photographs (though not necessarily all of her most well known) and a short biography of Goldin up until that time. It’s a shame there is nothing more recent in biographical form but this is really, truly about the photographs anyway. Each photograph is presented with a caption and at least some details on the subject(s) of the photo. And this book too documents many relationships among the “outcasts” of the greater community, as another reviewer put it. These are not brutal, per se, like some in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency but they’re just as intimate and and stark.