When Aperture published Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency three decades ago, the artist was met with brutal criticism; she was told, mostly by men, that her slideshow of images was not photography. The young photographer, then in her early thirties, didn’t pay them any heed. In conversation with Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, she admits that quite frankly, she “didn’t care about good photography.” Maybe that fact is paradoxically what makes her photographs so painfully good, even thirty years later.
Goldin created The Ballad to remember, to safeguard the things and the people that happened to her from being glossed over with the rosy tinge of nostalgia. The Ballad honors the bad and the beautiful, the tender and the violent, in equal measure, illuminating the ways in which the human race is both hopeless in relationships and hopeful in love.