Here #itchysilk writer and photographer Hendra Purbaya takes us into our first installment of #intothedarkroom with the explorative, occasionally controversial American photographer Nan Goldin. Her raw images particularly of relationships ostensibly from the LGBTQ community leading to her cult like status.
I first got into photography back in the late 90’s. At the time, I had the honor of getting a photography book by the legendary Nan Goldin. It was courtesy of a friend of mine. He had come to Indonesia in 1999 and he brought with him Nan Goldin’s Couples and Loneliness .
I was at first ignorant to Nan Goldin. Later when I dug up some literature about her my admiration for her grew. It was however Couples and Loneliness a powerful exploration of intimacy within relationships that captured me and one image in particular.
Gotscho, Kissing Gilles, Paris, 1993 (one of her well-known images) is imbued with a power that is impossible to ignore. Harrowing, profound and haunting yet beautiful. A stark emotive image and a gorgeous color palate captures a moment of beauty juxtaposed by the reality that a couple are sharing limited time. An emotional kiss from his lover on the background of a greenish tone of a sterile hospital room adding further impact.
The image should not be considered as a single image. It is not a depiction of a man about to face death due to HIV/AIDS. On the contrary, Goldin had never intended it merely as an image capturing the horrors of AIDS. In an interview with SLEEK back in 2010, Goldin stated: “ … But I didn’t think of them as people with AIDS. I’d never show my friends only when they’re sick and dying. The pictures have to show their lives. That’s why the Gilles and Gotscho series include photos of them before Gilles got sick, or before we knew he was sick.”
At the time Nan Goldin’s images had poignancy with the AIDS epidemic rife. Indeed, at the time, AIDS was seen as a disease sent from God to punish homosexuals. They were shunned as this vilified group. Goldin’s images and her friendships within the LGBTQ community helped to enhance her fuck the establishment persona. Perhaps more importantly it also displayed her fuck AIDS attitude-revolutionary in many ways at the time.
When the photo finally came to Nan Goldin’s exhibits and books, people, including myself, were so stricken by the raw emotions taking place inside its frame. For Nan Goldin it was a slice of life worth reflecting, intimate photos of a couple worth pondering upon.
Nan Goldin’s ability to bring intimacy through the lens is addictive. Snapshots from her life, people’s lives, slices of emotions and people’s histories recorded via the clicking of her camera have (and continue) to mean she is admired throughout the photographic world.