Nan Goldin

This iconic photographer captured candid queer life in the 1980s. In 2022, after the release of her documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, she became the talk of the art world. Here’s her story.

How many worlds exist alongside your own? 

Nan Goldin’s camera lens has always been turned towards the lives invisible to the mainstream. Born in 1953, Nan rose to prominence in the early ‘80s with her intimate snapshots of queer life. The photos were originally presented as slideshows set to music, and her first audiences were the friends and chosen family that she photographed.

Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a taxi, 1991

Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC, 1982

For Nan, art is political so long as our lives are political. This came into sharp focus for her during the AIDS epidemic. Through the act of documenting her community, her photography became a compelling visual challenge to dominant societal narratives. Nan’s perspective gained political significance as queer communities were desecrated. If silence equalled death, then so did invisibility. In her own words, “survival was an art.”

Gotscho kissing Gilles, Paris, 1993

Misty in Sheridan Square, NYC, 1991

Continuing that legacy, Nan founded PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in 2017. The group advocates for those who have suffered at the hands of predatory pharmaceutical giants. Nan’s 2022 film, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, documents her life, art and activism, as well as her personal experiences with addiction and her epic fight against the Sackler family.



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