I enjoy composing photographs that reflect banal aspects of life (pavements, my garden, clothing, clouds, crockery, cakes) as a way to make myself more open to the world around me and to appreciate small things that may mean little to others. A personal diary of grand and not so grand instances, where detail matters and adds texture to my life.
One of the first photographers that astonished me and made me see the world in a different way was Nan Goldin. Her style is autobiographical and engaged with her emotions and the struggles of family and friends. All seen through her dimly lit, colour saturated prints. She’s both a technician and a good judge of the decisive moment. The moments she chooses to depict, tend to be those blurred messy spaces between one’s unguarded emotional outbursts and how they manifest themselves through the viewfinder.
Her friends are shown from their first flush of love, with children and family, in their fights with drug addiction and AIDS to their funeral and the grave. What makes he work very different is her gaze and its unique warmth. I have never felt that she is exploiting her subjects, mainly because of the way she portrayed her own self. We see her having fun as a student, being in a blissful loving relationship that turns sour, we see her beaten and with a black eye, we see her as the loving partner and mother. Her sense of the real through the photographs is chilling but at the same time an account of a life lived with eyes wide open and indomitable individuality. A person looking for her own identity in plain view of everyone. A survivor that is happy to share the journey.
Her work glows with a deep humanity that is particularly resonant with our fast passed lives. Her photographs provide a perfect reminder for all of us to connect with our emotional world and the special people in our lives. A call for all of us to feel deeply and without pretense or fear. I wish I could summon the same amount of courage and objectivity to photograph my own life and the people around me as she does. She makes it all too clear how important it is for photography to have personal meaning.
I have one of her prints and soak in the gaze of her friend Clemens daily, thinking of this great photographer and her contribution. Hope the other 499 copies of the print out there are making all those people as happy!
Some interesting reading on Goldin: