Daily Inspiration: Nan Goldin on Empathy
"A lot of people seem to think that art or photography is about the way things look, or the surface of things. That's not what it's about for me. It's really about relationships and feelings...it's really hard for me to do commercial work because people kind of want me to do a Nan Goldin. They don't understand that it's not about a style or a look or a setup. It's about emotional obsession and empathy."
The quote above comes from Goldin’s interview from 2012 with Bazzar. Nan Goldin broke new ground with her documentary photography of transgender, transvestite, and gay friends in New York City in the late 1970s and ’80s. Her body of photographs, “A Ballad of Sexual Dependency” saw some of the most harrowing and accurate portrayals of living with drug addiction in a political climate which found discussions about drug use, prostitution, and sex work taboo. By the 1980s many of Goldin’s subjects had died of AIDS, and she was well known for saying, “I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.” If we take anything from Goldin perhaps it should be that being empathetic to your subjects is key to being a good artist and friend.