Nan Goldin

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Ian Leake, Jan 28, 2008.

  1. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    I saw Nan Goldin's Heartbeat in the Barbican Centre yesterday. If you don't know it, it's a series of slides each projected for a few seconds one after the other while something by Björk plays in the background. It explores relationships and sex.

    In the past I've only seen Goldin's work on the web or in books and have found it quite boring (and technically awful). But there was something compelling about seeing these pictures almost like a movie, albeit a slow one where you have to make up the story and fill in the gaps. I expected coarseness and crudity, but it was actually emotive and life-affirming.

    Does anyone know if this is typical of her work or just a one-off?
     
  2. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    She had a similar slide show in the past but it was more up-tempo and about the gay/bi/trans person of Boston... Or at least I think I read that in the guide for that exhibition :D
    I still don't like Nan Goldin's work so much but, yes, the slide show with music does make it a little better. Plus you only have to look at each photo for a short amount of time, you can't overanalyse it like you do plain photographs.
     
  3. Ian Leake

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    I think short display time was key to this. Each slide individually was ugly, technically poor, badly composed, many were out of focus - yeuch! (Not to mention the subject matter of many which really isn't my cup of tea.) But when they're only shown for maybe 5 or 10 seconds your brain only has time to see the person/people and a bit of the context before it has to move on to the next one. It was hypnotic - a very different effect from looking at prints as you say.
     
  4. Shawn Rahman

    Shawn Rahman Subscriber

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    Finally - perhaps after making the same boring photographs all her career, Goldin needed something to new. Ian - you said it correctly: ugly, technically poor, etc., etc., etc.

    Can someone find or explain ANYTHING about Goldin's "work" that is redeeming, revealing, worth consideration, etc.?
     
  5. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    I have to agree as to the quality of past work. Having said that, I guess that just because I don't get it doesn't mean it's bad. The problem is, that her work is all "art" and little, if any, craft. However she has been so successful that I think many young photographers look up to her and want to emulate her. It's a case where the marketing created the market, it didn't cater to it. It's also a case where success in the marketplace in and of itself justifies the work.

    It was the work of Adams and the Westons, that inspired me and it was the craft that they perfected in order to convey their message that attracted me.

    JMO
     
  6. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    It's kind of like going to the zoo, but instead of being for kids, it's for well-off art snobs who live in expensive condominiums and love the voyeuristic aspect of looking at the lives of the "other side" from the comfort of a gallery. Kind of like the function that Tom Waits serves, but trashier and nowhere near as talented.
     
  7. fluffy_penguins

    fluffy_penguins Member

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    I love her work.

    I think she she is quite true to her vision, and I've seen lots of her shows over the years. I'll take honesty, risk & passion over sterile, 'technically perfect' photographs any day.

    Catherine
     
  8. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Yeah - but at least Tom Waits can make me laugh!:D:D
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Her breakthrough work, "The ballad of sexual dependency" was a huge slideshow played in loop, so you had that kind of linear narrative, gap-fulfilment process.

    I really like her work, but not all of it. The best is a combination of human intimacy, decisive moments, elegant composition, and color palette thinking. The worst is usually just banal. But I'm always annoyed by people who generalize her into the "craftless" category just like other people call William Eggleston's photos "pedestrian." They usually fail to see the compositional aspects I have just mentioned, and don't even try to decode the pictures because of the subject matter.
     
  10. Videbaek

    Videbaek Member

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    Big show of hers now on at Helsinki's KIASMA, museum of contemporary art. Shall go at the weekend. Which reminds me -- at the press conference in support of the show's launch a week or so ago, she was ushered in front of a throng of news photogs and journalists. A photog took a picture of her, with flash of course. At this she declared the press conference over, and stormed off saying something over her shoulder I can't remember. The flash pissed her off. People hereabouts were very confused. Sounds like a calculated publicity stunt to me: got her much more ink in the papers, which will draw many more punters to the show to see the pics of the flouncing diva bitch. I could be wrong of course, but it doesn't make any sense otherwise. On the one hand I have to think this is brilliant, and I begin to understand her success; on the other hand I have to think it's all too cynical and I don't expect much of the show.
     
  11. Ian Leake

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    It would be great to hear what you think after you've seen her show Svend.
     
  12. bwphoto

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    Ansel Adams was 'known' of course in the late '70's but not quite a household word and then engaged a publicist --remember, 'buy a Datsun and plant a tree' national campaign in print and on tv? Adams was on Time mag. cover and by the early 80's he WAS a household word. Point is, stunts like Svend is reporting can only bring people into the exhibition and the little I know of her and her work, she is prone to off kilter stuff and drug use et.al and of course, her subject matter is on the edge, as well. Things have a way of settling and if her work is as good as some indicate, then she deserves the noteriety and acclaim.
     
  13. catem

    catem Member

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    I've had mixed feelings about Nan Goldin's work too. Some I like, some I don't.

    But I recognise she is an very important photographer - and her business is not to have us 'like' everything.

    The least of my criticisms of her work would be on a technical level. There is something so very depressing about the technically "perfect", (conventionally speaking) yet arid print. Anyone can do technique, given time - it takes something more to explore the human condition in a meaningful way. Also, she is using technique in her own way, for her own ends.

    I warmed to her more after seeing her on the 'Genius of Photography' series. It always helps to see more of people I think, to hear their own words. I don't think she's an outsider, portraying the 'underclass' or however you want to put it, saying 'look at these people I've made into art'. I think she is taking pictures of her friends, the people she knows best, working with them collaboratively (mostly), and she is as much, or more, one of them as one of us. I have the feeling she is possibly a little naive about her role as artist, (or maybe I'm being presumptious) but I didn't doubt her genuineness.
     
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  14. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    A great wrap-up, I agree completely. Many people know how and why they use photography (not all of course), and Nan Goldin is one of them. Many people, when confronted with someone that uses the medium in a different way or for different purposes than they do, get confused. Some get defensive and dismissive. "Heart Shaped Bruise" is, to me, one of the most amazing photographs I've ever seen. Say what you want about the composition, but the choice to document what she was going through along with the visual impact of the picture impresses me to no end. Sometimes pictures are an end unto themselves (the so called "art" photos), hers have always seemed to be a means to an end.

    Isaac
     
  15. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Without craft, there is no art. Craft comes first (in a temporal sense). If it's there, then maybe the piece can be art.

    That being said, I've seen some of her prints which were marvelous. First rate craftsmanship. (I say "her prints", but I have no idea who actually produced them.) Considering the fact that she photographs with a Leica they were, in fact, quite amazing.

    Is it art? I'm not sure. She seems rather compositionally haphazard.
     
  16. Ian Leake

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    Of course craft may not be recognised by mainstream opinion if it doesn't conform to the standards of the day. What I've seen of her work has a recognisable style so my assumption is that she works to achieve that style through craft. Whether I've seen enough of her work to fairly judge this I don't know.
     
  17. Paul.A

    Paul.A Member

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    "Craft comes first (in a temporal sense). If it's there, then maybe the piece can be art."

    Excuse me but what a load of b*ll*cks. Craft with no conceptual thought is just a clever trick. Art has a meaning, implied or otherwise, craft is merely the sterile repetition of technique.
     
  18. Timothy

    Timothy Member

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    Paul A, he did not say that craft was art, he only said that it must be there first. I think he is right, but in a kind of obvious way. I mean, the craft that one person brings to their work might be different from what someone else might consider "good", and this can affect their opinion of the art. But there is no way around the fact that some kind of craft, as per your definition of craft, is necessary first in order to produce art.
     
  19. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Craft does not have to mean a perfectly produced print. It can simply involve the ability to capture the subject matter in a meaningful way. It can also include the skill to edit down images into a coherent presentation.

    I have never been a big fan of her work. I think "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" is interesting from a voyeuristic point of view. Looking at the dysfunction of relationships and wondering if any of it reflects back to us.

    However I find I re-evaluate art constantly as my opinion taste and attitiude change with education, age and world experience. When I first discovered Diane Arbus years ago I really disliked the work. Over the years after taking the time to understand the artist, the context of the work and see prints in person I now like her work.