In Nan Goldin’s photography, she documents her life, and the lives of her friends, many of whom are homosexuals and junkies. She wants her work as she quotes “to be about every man and every relationship and the potential of violence in every relationship.” By documenting her personal experiences and those of her friends, she shows the relationships of one group of people with each other. One way she depicts the effect of relationships on people is through the facial expressions of her and her friends. For example, in David and Butch Crying at Tin Pan Alley, New York City and Nan on Brian’s Lap, Nan’s Birthday, New York City, Goldin and her friends are forcing smiles on their faces, in order to convince themselves and others they are happy within their relationships. In many of Goldin’s photographs as well, she shows herself and her friends looking for love and happiness through intimate settings, but there expressions reveal that they have not truly found it. For example in Nan and Brian in Bed, New York City, Nan lays on the bed gazing at her lover while he ignores her. This image shows the tension between them and the possibility that Brian’s only interested in Nan to release his sexual impulses. I also believe that in many of her photographs, she is commenting on how men are looking for sexual pleasure with women. For example, in Buzz and Nan at the Afterhours, New York City, the African American is clearly looking at Nan’s breasts while in Nan and Dickie in the York Motel, New Jersey, Dickie puts his hand near Nan’s pubic area.
Goldin’s style in her photographs contain a snapshot feel to them, which also adds to her documentary and spontaneous concept of the presentation. Her use of the flash in some of her images and the little attention to the composition expresses her idea because she wants her images to look like they are not staged, but merely capturing a moment in time. Also, the harsh colors created in her images helps express the drama seen in her work.
Although her snapshot style brings forth her concept behind these images, it does not show what technical photographic talent she might have, which is one of the reasons I do not like her work. These images remind me of snapshot pictures on Facebook and to me represent minimal effort in taking these images and the appearance that anyone could have taken these photos. I also do not like the images because they are too graphic and vulgar for me. These images show actions that are private acts, which makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like a voyeur and am intruding. Possibly, this is part of her intent and therefore is an indication of the effectiveness of the photographs in showing the lack of fulfillment and pain we experience in our relationships, but nonetheless I do not enjoy them. Despite my dislike of her work, I do not believe these should be censored, because I believe everyone has the right to express his or her opinion. Although the content of theses images is offensive, I also do not believe they are pornographic. These images are vulgar, but not pornographic because they do not arouse any sexual impulses in me; instead I am repelled by her work.
One aspect I find interesting is both Robert Mapplethorpe’s and Nan Goldin’s work focused on the gay community and were both repelled by viewers supposedly due to the nudity and sexual acts represented. However, could the real reason the work was suppressed be due to their depiction of a group of people rejected from society due to their differences? Society does not like for them to be portrayed because it exposes their existence and gives them voice.