Eden and After

posted by Bridget on 23 April 2014

Nan Goldin's latest book Eden and After tackles new controversy.

Ever since The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Nan Goldin has been at the forefront of radical and edgy photography. She openly courted controversy with images of her dissolute friends, addicts, transvestites and prostitutes. Her self-portraits revealed the violence of her life as it was then. Raw and casual, Goldin laid bare her life before the camera, forged in the fast paced and hedonistic New York of the 1980s.

So it is perhaps a surprise to discover that for the last forty years Goldin has also been taking photographs of children, mostly those of her friends, a subject matter seemingly far removed from her "hard-core autobiographical" work.

Eden and After

But this subject of children is beset with anxiety in the 21st Century. A time in history, when it is impossible to take photographs of children without the permission of parents or guardians. Where images of children presented in the news media are cropped at the head or shot in silhouette to provide anonymity. Where exhibitions of the work of Sally Mann and Goldin herself incur the interest of the police and images are removed from the walls of public galleries.

So Goldin is still raw and edgy and continues to court controversy with her photographs of children. This is what she does best, she uses the camera to show us what we find difficult to look at and in so doing makes it normal. We can only hope that her trail blazing diaristic style of the 1980s which has so informed the blogger-sphere, Facebook and Instagram photography, has the same result with a return to encouraging and celebrating photography of children without a fear of the bogie man in the dirty old mac.

Click here to read Sean O'Hagan's illuminating interview with Goldin for The Observer and click on the book to see a gallery of images from Eden and After.

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