Nan Goldin : The ballad of sexual dependency

United States, written by Laurence Cornet

© Nan Goldin

The story of Nan Goldin and New York goes back to 1977 when, diploma in hand, she landed in the vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere of the American megacity. Drugs, rock n’ roll, punks, drag queens, run-down neighborhoods, friends and lovers struck down by AIDS—all these can be found in her intimate series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. The lightness of the era left with those who had lived it so hard. But for Goldin, love stayed behind. “My work has always come from empathy and love,” said Goldin of her new book Eden and After (Phaidon), a poetic and tender compilation of portraits of children. The Ballad remains her cult classic.

A tribute from Goldin to her friends and  to the strangers,  to whom she offered the same sincere eye in their final days, this work was first published in 1986 by Aperture, which is reissuing the book this year. In Camera, Jonas Cuénin speaks of the work as, “an urban marvel [...], a visual journal of the intimacy and understanding between friends.” The series brought tears to the eyes of the audience at the Arles festval in 2009, when a projection of it was accompanied by a live performance from the Tiger Lillies. (The first projection of The Ballad, at New York’s Whitney Museum in 1985, was accompanied by The Velvet Underground.) The performance made the musical narrative of Ballad all the more palpable. But it’s not a requiem, after all—it’s a timeless ballad, a celebration of life, and this new edition of the book keeps the song going.


More about this article


We had almost forgotten about Nan Goldin, whose latest book, The Devil’s Playground, was published eleven years ago. Three decades after her seminal work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, was...


Related article

Nan Goldin

Presented in Rome at the Gagosian Gallery last Spring, Scopophilia was the renowned photographer's first major exhibition in Rome. The Greek term Scopophilia literally means "love of looking,"...