Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin

As I started to look more closely at the work of photographers who focus on intimate and documentary as a topic, I came across Nan Goldin. Her work immediately caught my eye because of the fact that every moment she captures seems honest and realistic. This is because her work doesn’t come across like she’s planned the shoot. Things are all over the place in most of the backgrounds of the images, yet it still visually looks good and how it should, it doesn’t seem altered in a way. I came across a well known sentence Nan Goldin lives by, she says ‘I didn’t care about good photography, I cared about complete honesty.’ Nan Goldin captures intimate moments between families and couples. She spends time following their daily routines and then after taking multiply images, she chooses the most effective one that expresses the feeling of the atmosphere that was within that moment, making sure the audience feels it too. I began to look at her work, as I wanted to get more ideas for my shoots that I want to do based around documentary and intimate as my chosen theme. I studied her book called ‘The devils playground’ which has real explicit intimate images within it, and most certainly makes you feel a certain way when looking at them. This is the same reaction I want the audience to have when looking at my photographs. I want them to react with a gasp, therefore I studied her work within ‘The devils playground’ closely to see the way in which she takes her images to create a certain feel and to get a certain response from the viewer.

French Kiss-Joana & Aurele

The reason I love this photograph is because of the great honesty that is going on, everything is being laid bare. They’re not afraid to show their love for each other, the affection and thrill. This image speaks of so much trust between the two sides of the camera. When I saw this image I decided I want to base my theme around documentary with slight intimate moments like Nan Goldin has done. By Nan Goldin photographing these private intimate moments between couples, shes basically saying ‘Its ok to do these things, its nothing to be ashamed of’, which we all know is true. However some people might disagree and say, that these things should be kept private and not shown around. I went on to research for evidence where Nan Goldin herself talks about she felt about exploiting people’s intimate moments. I came across a video where she speaks about how she was criticized, and how her work was said to be misleading and not true photography.

She however expresses boldly that photography is all about being honest and that’s what she wanted most within her images. I however like the fact that her work is exposing what we as humans would normally hide, this grabs the audiences attention and makes them gasp. Looking at this picture, the light that is shining in on certain areas could also portray two meanings to their relationship. The black could leave the viewer thinking about this image as representing lust, sin, filth, pornography, unfaithfulness or addiction to sex. Where as the light could be representing purity, as if its ok for this to be happening. The light could represent affection, satisfaction, sense of security, warmth, strong love or care. Nan Goldin is leaving the audience to decide for themselves how they want to feel about the image. Things like these make her work more effective as the viewer can connect with her images more.

As I looked more into the work that Nan Goldin does, I came across a video where she talks about another one of her books, what inspired her to take such intimate images and why she does it. Her book ‘The ballad of sexual dependency’ is very much presented in the same style of work as her book ‘The devils playground’ where I came across the images I have been talking about so far.


Two more images of Nan Goldin that made me choose intimate as part of my theme. I just love the idea of people trusting me as the photographer to capture special moments within their private lives. Trust is a beautiful thing and can reveal so much to the world outside when it is allowed.


‘I didn’t care about good photography, I cared about complete honesty.’

Website: Viewed- October 19th 2014.

Talk on ‘The Ballad of sexual dependency’.


Viewed- October 19th 2014.

Book with one author: The devils playground, Nan Goldin (2003) London.Publisher:Richard Schlagman.


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