Nan Goldin Biography

As a teenager in Boston, Massachusetts, photographer Nan Goldin gained notoriety for her intimate portraits of close friends in the city’s gay and transsexual communities. These friends, often drag queens and other members of marginalized society, became the subjects of her most well-known project, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Later, in New York City and throughout travels in Europe and Asia, her work would continue to champion and celebrate members of these alternative subcultures through storytelling in intimate and autobiographical ways. 


Born in 1953, Goldin grew up in the suburbs of Boston. In the late 60’s, jarred by the death of her teenage sister, Goldin turned to photography as a tool to capture relationships of those closest to her. While honing her skills at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she continued to document the relationships in her life while subsequently addressing subjects like hard drug use, violence, and sex. When the AIDS epidemic began to ravage the communities she had become so closely entwined with, Goldin documented the effects of the disease on those closest to her and presented the work in the controversial 1989 show, Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing


For her achievements in the medium of photography, Goldin has been honored with numerous awards and grants, including the prestigious Hasselblad Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a designation with the French Legion of Honor. Her work has been collected in over a dozen monographs, most notably The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (Aperture, 1986). 


Goldin’s work has been exhibited at countless galleries and institutions around the globe, notably including retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of New York, Centre Pompidou (Paris), La Triennale (Milan), MoMA (New York), and at Tate Modern (London). Additionally, her work is held in the permanent collections of major collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), MoMA (New York), Tate Gallery (London), Art Institute of Chicago, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston).