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The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

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A photobook classic, and perhaps the work for which New York photographer Nan Goldin remains best known, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her "tribe." Her work describes a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now long gone, and a world that i A photobook classic, and perhaps the work for which New York photographer Nan Goldin remains best known, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her "tribe." Her work describes a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now long gone, and a world that is visceral and seething with life. As Goldin writes: "Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life."


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A photobook classic, and perhaps the work for which New York photographer Nan Goldin remains best known, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her "tribe." Her work describes a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now long gone, and a world that i A photobook classic, and perhaps the work for which New York photographer Nan Goldin remains best known, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends and lovers collectively described by Goldin as her "tribe." Her work describes a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now long gone, and a world that is visceral and seething with life. As Goldin writes: "Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life."

30 review for The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    This is a book of photographs in the late 1960s and 1970s taken by Nan Goldin of her friends and (rarely) herself. White, working-class Americans. I love photography, so I rated this very high. However, this is a personal photograph collection. You don't know Nan. You don't know any of these people - her friends and lovers. So if you have no interest in the pictures that document another person's life, this will bore you. But the pictures certainly aren't boring. Nan seems to think this book is abo This is a book of photographs in the late 1960s and 1970s taken by Nan Goldin of her friends and (rarely) herself. White, working-class Americans. I love photography, so I rated this very high. However, this is a personal photograph collection. You don't know Nan. You don't know any of these people - her friends and lovers. So if you have no interest in the pictures that document another person's life, this will bore you. But the pictures certainly aren't boring. Nan seems to think this book is about sex and relationships. It's not, IMO. Sure, there are lots of nude women, topless women in here. Maybe a few naked men. One picture is of a guy masturbating, she has a picture of men peeing into a toilet, and she does have a few pictures of what appears to be a couple engaging in or almost engaging in sex. But the book isn't sexy. It's not porn - porn is meant to titillate and to drive fantasy. This is raw and real life. Also, it's obviously not meant for anyone to get off on. I mean - a person COULD get off to it, people masturbate to ANYTHING, I swear >.< - but that's not what this book is all about. It's about Nan, the people she loves, and the interesting things she saw in life. Goldin writes a long introduction to the book that is AMAZING. I'm not going to try and unpack it here - that would be impossible - but she discusses the need for coupling, the construction of gender, When I was fifteen, the perfect world seemed a place of total androgyny, where you won't know a person's gender until you were in bed with him or her. She also discusses her older sister's suicide and how that deeply affected her. Tl;dr - I was fascinated by this photography book which was raw and honest. However, people who are bored with photographs of people they can't recognize might not enjoy this. Although there is nudity and a bit of sexuality, I don't think this was a sexy book or even a book about sex for that matter. The book isn't all naked people or half-naked people, often pictures are just of someone at dinner or talking on the phone or smoking or crying or tattooing someone or riding on a train. They are meaningful snapshots from her life. ETA: Nan Goldin Wants You To Know She Didn't Invent Instagram NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/art...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leah Williams

    I should preface this reviewlet with a little surgeon general's warning: I know jack about photography. Never taken a class in it, don't often buy books about it, have a very basic little digicam, and I've never really covered much photography in my art history classes either (I think I was comatose on the floor the day we went over it in Ms. Brittle's class or else absent on a "sick day".) That being said, I absolutely love Nan Goldin's work. She is one of the few photographers whose prints I w I should preface this reviewlet with a little surgeon general's warning: I know jack about photography. Never taken a class in it, don't often buy books about it, have a very basic little digicam, and I've never really covered much photography in my art history classes either (I think I was comatose on the floor the day we went over it in Ms. Brittle's class or else absent on a "sick day".) That being said, I absolutely love Nan Goldin's work. She is one of the few photographers whose prints I would love having on my wall. She doesn't have many cheesy shots of decrepit trees or nymphettes wearing pearls and looking over their shoulders and shit; instead Goldin is a master at capturing relationships between people. In that respect, she reminds me a lot of David Hockney's portraiture. Goldin reveals moments of tenderness, sensuality, and brutality, often in the same image. She is famous for her images of couples from different walks of life, and rightly so: these are outstanding. Goldin was also one of the few photographers to cover the sad introitus of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s from the ground; many of her closest friends fell victim to the virus. Goldin's photographs at this period are heartbreaking--somehow melancholic in their stoicism and extremely visceral. You feel like you're in the room with the people standing over their friend's hospital bed, and you can almost smell the sickness on his breath as he lays dying. These images are now decades old, but they convey an immediacy that I've seldom seen in such an emotionally heavy subject matter. I recommend Nan Goldin's work to anyone--whether you're interested in photography, or, like me, are an idiot about photography and are open to something new and inspiring.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Probably in my top three favourite books of photography.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paulina

    "We all tell stories which are versions of history - memorized, encapsulated, repeatable, and safe. Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life. Memory allows an endless flow of connections. Stories can be rewritten, memory can't. If each picture is a story, then the accumulation of these pictures comes closer to the experience of memory, a story without end. I want to be able to experience fully, wi "We all tell stories which are versions of history - memorized, encapsulated, repeatable, and safe. Real memory, which these pictures trigger, is an invocation of the color, smell, sound, and physical presence, the density and flavor of life. Memory allows an endless flow of connections. Stories can be rewritten, memory can't. If each picture is a story, then the accumulation of these pictures comes closer to the experience of memory, a story without end. I want to be able to experience fully, without restraint. People who are obsessed with remembering their experiences usually impose strict self-disciplines. I want to be uncontrolled and controlled at the same time. The diary is my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember." "In my family of friends, there is a desire for the intimacy of the blood family, but also a desire for something more open-ended. Roles aren't so defined. These are long-term relationships. People leave, people come back, but these separations are without the breach of intimacy. We are bonded not by blood or place, but by a similar morality, the need to live fully and for the moment, a disbelief in the future, a similar respect for honesty, a need to push limits, and a common history. We live life without consideration, but with consideration. There is among us an ability to listen and to emphatize that surpasses the normal definition of friendship." "What you know emotionally and what you crave sexually can be wildly contradictory. I often feel that I am better suited to be with a woman; my long-term relationships with women are bonds that have the intensity of marriage, or the closeness of sisters. But a part of me is challenged by the opacity of men's emotional makeup and is stimulated by the conflict inherent in relationships between men and women. Sex itself is only one aspect of sexual dependency. Pleasure becomes the motivation, but the real satisfaction is romantic. Bed becomes a forum in which struggles in a relationship are defused or intensified. Sex isn't about performance; it's about a certain kind of communication founded on trust and exposure and vulnerability that can't be expressed any other way. Intense sexual bonds become consuming and self-perpetuating. You become dependent on the gratification. Sex becomes a microcosm of the relationship, the battleground, an exorcism." "I don't ever want to be susceptible to anyone else's version of my history. I don't ever want to lose the real memory of anyone again."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Şirin

    I absolutely adore Nan Goldin. What she does with photography is beyond words. Images are raw, alive and boiling with hostile energy. It's always inspiring to look at them. Also the Tiger Lilies'in bu kitap için yazdığı ballad'ı da dinlemek gerekir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlZJM... I absolutely adore Nan Goldin. What she does with photography is beyond words. Images are raw, alive and boiling with hostile energy. It's always inspiring to look at them. Also the Tiger Lilies'in bu kitap için yazdığı ballad'ı da dinlemek gerekir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlZJM...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Espadana

    I finally bought it ❤️

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book is amazing. I love Nan Goldin and bought this for myself as a birthday gift. Her portraits are intimate, raw, painful, and inspiring and show what old New York was like. I was lucky enough to see her slideshow of "The Ballad" play at MOMA and it's even better and more moving with music. I love it! This book is amazing. I love Nan Goldin and bought this for myself as a birthday gift. Her portraits are intimate, raw, painful, and inspiring and show what old New York was like. I was lucky enough to see her slideshow of "The Ballad" play at MOMA and it's even better and more moving with music. I love it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aaron the Pink Donut

    Arguably her most powerful collection of photos. A snapshot of humanity trapped in a 148 pages.A must have.

  9. 4 out of 5

    A

    “If men and women often seem unsuited to one another, maybe it’s because they have different emotional realities and speak a different emotional language. For many years, I found it hard to understand the feeling systems of men; I didn’t believe they were vulnerable and I empowered them in a way that didn’t acknowledge their fears and feelings. Men carry their own baggage, a legacy based on a fear of women, a need to categorize them, for instance, as mothers, whores, virgins, or spiderwomen. The “If men and women often seem unsuited to one another, maybe it’s because they have different emotional realities and speak a different emotional language. For many years, I found it hard to understand the feeling systems of men; I didn’t believe they were vulnerable and I empowered them in a way that didn’t acknowledge their fears and feelings. Men carry their own baggage, a legacy based on a fear of women, a need to categorize them, for instance, as mothers, whores, virgins, or spiderwomen. The construction of gender roles is one of the major problems that individuals bring into a relationship. As children, we’re programmed into the limitations of gender distinction: little boys to be fighters, little girls to be pretty and nice. But as we grow older, there’s a self-awareness that sees gender as a decision, as something malleable. You can play with the traditional options—dressing up, cruising in cars, the tough posturing—or play against the roles, by displaying your tenderness or toughness to contradict stereotypes.” (p. 7)

  10. 5 out of 5

    gnarlyhiker

    AWsomEST

  11. 5 out of 5

    sofia

    "I don’t ever want to be susceptible to anyone else’s version of my history. I don’t ever want to lose the real memory of anyone again." "I don’t ever want to be susceptible to anyone else’s version of my history. I don’t ever want to lose the real memory of anyone again."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Nan Goldin took so many risk as a photographer - turning the camera on herself, but I think maybe even more effectively on those closest to her. Her photographs are beautiful and I think she was a real break through in the 70s for women photographers - in the ways that she did not portray women necessarily in these beautiful positions with perfect bodies - her work seems to be more about the realistic - Almost this is who I am? Take it or leave it. I dont know?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    nan goldin touches me... her photos are stunning

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A classic look at a time and place made all the more powerful by Goldin's access to her friends' private lives. She captures something deep and beautiful about these people. A classic look at a time and place made all the more powerful by Goldin's access to her friends' private lives. She captures something deep and beautiful about these people.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aral

    i guess i expected to like this more

  16. 5 out of 5

    Untimely Gamer

    As a rube at photography, night and indoor photography has always been my bane. It just never looks right, especially if I use the flash. The skin always look overexposed and pasty. What astounds me about Nan Goldin’s photography is how she has absolutely mastered the art of indoor photography. Many of her most technically accomplished and vivid shots take place on the inside, in the dark of a bar or a friend’s living room. Of course there are frequent blurry and out-of-focus shots, but this (pr As a rube at photography, night and indoor photography has always been my bane. It just never looks right, especially if I use the flash. The skin always look overexposed and pasty. What astounds me about Nan Goldin’s photography is how she has absolutely mastered the art of indoor photography. Many of her most technically accomplished and vivid shots take place on the inside, in the dark of a bar or a friend’s living room. Of course there are frequent blurry and out-of-focus shots, but this (premeditated) technical amateurishness only heightens the skill she displays in many other indoor shots The collection is prefaced by a very long and rambling essay by Goldin about the goals of her collection. I don’t know if the photographs live up to her ideas. The photographs appear to be so intensely personal, so filled with hidden meaning unavailable to the casual viewer, it is hard to square them with an overarching goals. Unlike, say Larry Clark’s Tulsa, it’s hard to get any sense of who the members are of any group. There is a real tension between the outsider status of the viewer, who cannot ever comprehend the entirety of the world displayed in the photos, and Goldin, whose entire world is composed of this little group. I do wonder if the way the social group is walled off from the viewer contributes to the perception of this collection as an elegy to a gay subculture now lost to AIDS. My sense of the cultural signifiers of the LGBT scene at that time could be off, but I found it mostly adjacent to queer culture rather than finding meaning directly from it. Maybe it is also because the whole collection is framed in terms of heterosexuality. One of the first photos in the book, which Goldin in her introduction notes is programmatic, shows waxes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Frozen in time, the two are forever apart together. The cover also displays Goldin’s boyfriend smoking a cigarette as he sits on the bed where she is laying. She stares out at him with suspicion and even fear. In fact, Goldin and Brian’s relationship, and its disastrous turn to abuse, provides an anchor of the collection. Other people come and go in Nan’s group, but her world is primarily defined by her relationship to Brian, and when that falls apart, her attempts to pick up the pieces with other men. I definitely really love this book, and when I actually get my hands on enough money I will purchase my own copy instead of borrowing one from a library. It’s a book that rewards re-reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diego Munoz

    Insiders look at a bunch of people in USA and also West Germany. The photos don’t seem to be staged or posed, it’s usually people dancing, drinking, having a bath, making out or talking. It’s like a visual diary. This would be a great document to record the youth of the people in the book. It seems like there were some rough patches for them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Louhi

    Absolutely riveting. Goldin is one of the most captivating artists of the bohemian underground subcultures of the 1970s to 1990s, I read a superb article about her and this collection a while ago and have been planning to get it ever since. I was not disappointed in the slightest, planning to eat up more Goldin as soon as I can.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rel

    This was pretty good. It made the 80s look less ugly than I usually find them. It was an interesting historical document and the pictures are pretty good. The ones that stuck with me the most were of the bad teeth.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Isa

    You ever read something that makes you feel gross, but in a good way? Yeah.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    saw her exhibit at MoMa a summer or two back, the highlight was a picture slideshow at the end to a tracklist of Ray Charles and Nico

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    After I'll Be Your Mirror, I was on a Nan Goldin kick. After I'll Be Your Mirror, I was on a Nan Goldin kick.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fatema

    I want to show exactly what my world looks like, without glamorization, without glorification. I really liked the way she wrote about her work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Iris Elgar

    Was not disappointed with the beautiful array of Goldin’s photographs :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    loved it

  26. 4 out of 5

    SummerBlue

    It inspired me to live more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    These photographs brought me a surprising amount of emotion. Sometimes we can learn, or imagine, everything from body language.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ray Dunsmore

    Nan Goldin's Ballad of Sexual Dependency tells the story of a relationship attempting to tell the story of all relationships. It places you within the experiences of a young woman in the early eighties. We start with the basics of the relationship; its archetypes, the flow from desire to camaraderie to longing and its ultimate conclusion, sex. Then, suddenly, the aftermath. These flashes of light were memories, brief clips dug out of introspective days and nights alone, alternately collapsing an Nan Goldin's Ballad of Sexual Dependency tells the story of a relationship attempting to tell the story of all relationships. It places you within the experiences of a young woman in the early eighties. We start with the basics of the relationship; its archetypes, the flow from desire to camaraderie to longing and its ultimate conclusion, sex. Then, suddenly, the aftermath. These flashes of light were memories, brief clips dug out of introspective days and nights alone, alternately collapsing and putting yourself back together as a new person reshaped by this new past crucible. The reinvention burns you out, especially on the nights cheap sex becomes an unavailable distraction. Then enters the new man. He comes strutting in, half rebellious flame radiating some preternatural heat, half presenting drunkard, posing for the world before he clutches his knees and vomits on the sidewalk. You ascribe some introspective beauty that could be a mere projection of your desires to some shared dispassionate contemplation. You go through the tense barefoot walk on broken glass to get to know the shape of each others personalities, like children putting on their parents' clothes. You see a light within him, unfortunately it's all reflected from yourself. You compare him to past lovers to distract from this cackling, boisterous brutus that comes out in him and his questionable friends that always seem to come up unexpected out of cracks in the walls. He, slovenly, unkempt, aging in reality has the lines softened by the blur of love's grip on the mind. Desire, mutually created, acknowledged and consummated, a bright burning flame that snuffs out at the end, leaving you alone to contemplate the darkness that snuck up behind you. The need to escape grows, through fantasy, friends, drugs, anything to push out the boundaries of reality to keep things from getting too claustrophobic like those endless lonely nights together. The tension grows, boils over the edge, off the counter, and onto the floor. Things come to a head. The fight turns from mental to physical, you become trapped in a love turned prison, desire battling self-preservation instinct. The pain almost feels, in a perverted way, like some form of love. But deep within, you know it's over. Something within you, however, can't summon the will to leave. You wear yourself down keeping the deep inner hatred of this situation held down like a drunk barfighter, because the one thing more terrifying than being chained to someone wrong is being alone forever. You seek the comfort of other women as a refuge for all the thoughts trapped ricocheting around your head when he's around. The man you loved slowly fades into the unsteady murk of memory's cloudy waters. Every interaction detached, like talking behind panes of glass. Your bed perpetually reminiscent of an empty bed in a whorehouse. Every time you leave the room is like turning a corner at full speed being chased by lunatics in your dreams; a small breath of hope weighed by the impossibility of escape. You wonder how your parents managed to survive this - if you'd only known those tight-lipped bastards' secrets... maybe marriage was the key? So you find yourself raising a family. You dote affection on the kid, a welcome distraction. You worry of the days when they'll become old enough to risk falling into the same emotional traps you did, but you push that thought away in the celebration of childlike rituals. You find your mind drifting back to the camaraderie of friends, those days you could still be the face that presented itself in friendly company, driving together to some shared unknown future. So you find yourself sinking into the roles of domesticity, whether it be to someone who fits your personal mores like a key to a lock, or if it's someone you found for want of protection and security, a stable rock to cling to in the unforgiving surf. Maybe he puts on facades of normalcy even when reality comes in, wrecking ball at the ready; maybe he's the compassionate type, willing to be your psychiatrist's couch. But it's the entangled, stripped live wires of mutual desire that keeps you coming back together. It's the sheer joy of having the good fortune to crash into someone to be flung through the vast uncaring universe with. It's powerful shit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jane Manns

    An wonderfully artistic book of photography from the late 70's and 80's. It's Nan Goldin's photo documentation of her family, not the blood family but the family one makes out of the people u love. It also shows the human battle for intimacy and space. It also documents the drug use of the time and the of blurring of gender lines. I did a series of photographs in college (UNLV) titled what happened in Vegas stays. It was about friends, the ups and downs of drug use in Vegas with a side of stripp An wonderfully artistic book of photography from the late 70's and 80's. It's Nan Goldin's photo documentation of her family, not the blood family but the family one makes out of the people u love. It also shows the human battle for intimacy and space. It also documents the drug use of the time and the of blurring of gender lines. I did a series of photographs in college (UNLV) titled what happened in Vegas stays. It was about friends, the ups and downs of drug use in Vegas with a side of strippers. My Photography teach recommended in look into Nan Goldin and I love her for that! I'm just sad that other then a quick scrim this was the first time I took the time to read and view the book from front to back.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liralen

    'The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,' says Goldin in the introduction (6). And it's that intimacy that really makes the book: these are not photographs of strangers but photographs from Goldin's own life. Friends and lovers and roommates. The captions say not Vivienne in a green dress but rather Vivienne in the green dress (21). I love the contrasts: on page 16, Suzanne and Brian on the bench, sitting two feet apart, she looking at him, him looking forward or down. Th 'The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,' says Goldin in the introduction (6). And it's that intimacy that really makes the book: these are not photographs of strangers but photographs from Goldin's own life. Friends and lovers and roommates. The captions say not Vivienne in a green dress but rather Vivienne in the green dress (21). I love the contrasts: on page 16, Suzanne and Brian on the bench, sitting two feet apart, she looking at him, him looking forward or down. There's a story there. On the next page, Suzanne and Philippe on the bench, but here they're entwined, she half on his lap, arms and legs a tangle. Or: Lynelle on my bed (32), half-dressed, bed in disarray, an implication of intimacy. On the next page, Suzanne on her bed, also half-dressed, looking...lost? Hotel rooms and beds and the aftermath of abuse. Weddings, bars, nudity. A photo captioned Mexican couple a week before their second divorce (142): his arm around her shoulder, her arm around his waist. Again, there's a story there. There's a fair amount of explicit stuff, but it's all in the context of the broader work—a sort of overall snapshot of, well, intimacy. People in bed who look like they want to be there and people in bed who look like they've checked out. Individually there are some really interesting photos, but I'm just fascinated by the way they all fit together—and oh man I want to go find the rest of her books of work now. Also, from the afterword, just because I think it's important: ...photography doesn't preserve memory as effectively as I had thought it would. A lot of the people in the book are dead now, mostly from AIDS. I had thought that I could stave off loss through photographing. I always thought if I photographed anyone or anything enough, I would never lose the person, I would never lose the memory, I would never lose the place. But the pictures show me how much I've lost. (145)

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