The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends, family, and lovers—collectively described by Nan Goldin as her “tribe.” Her work describes a world that is visceral, charged, and seething with life. First published in 1986, this reissue recognizes the persistent relevance and freshness of Nan Goldin’s cutting-edge photography.
Her lush color photography and candid style demand that the viewer go beyond the surface to encounter a profound intensity. As Goldin writes: “Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life.” Through an accurate and detailed record of her life, Ballad reveals Goldin’s personal odyssey as well as a more universal understanding of the different languages men and women speak, and the struggle between autonomy and dependency.
Over the past twenty-five years, the influence of Ballad on photography and other aesthetic realms has continually grown, making the work a contemporary classic. Nan Goldin’s story of urban life on the fringe was the swan song of an era that reached its peak in the early eighties. Yet it has captured an important element of humanity that is transcendent: a need to connect. This new paperback edition of The Ballad of Sexual Dependency has been printed using new scans and separations created by master separator Robert Hennessey from Goldin’s original transparencies, rendering them with unparalleled sumptuousness and impact.
Nan Goldin (born in Washington, D.C., 1953) began photographing at the age of fifteen. She received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1977. In 1978 she moved to New York, where she continued to document her “extended family.” These photographs, along with those taken in London, Berlin, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, became the subject of her slide shows and first book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986). Goldin’s other books include The Other Side (1993), Ten Years After (1997), and The Beautiful Smile (2008). In 1985 her work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s biennial. A decade later, in 1996, a major retrospective of her work opened at the Whitney, and toured to museums throughout Europe. That same year a documentary about her life and work, I’ll Be Your Mirror, made in collaboration with Edmund Coulthard, was awarded a Teddy Award for Best Essay at the Berlin Film Festival. In 2001 a second retrospective of her work, Le Feu Follet, was held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and toured internationally as The Devil’s Playground. In 2006, Goldin was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. And, in 2007, she received the Hasselblad Award in Photography. Goldin’s most recent slide show, Scopophilia, was commissioned by the Louvre and shown there in 2010. Goldin lives in Berlin, Paris, and New York.