Nan Goldin – ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ [book review]

by M. Mileva

Nan Goldin – one of the contemporary photographers capturing personal, intimate life and relationships. If I’m honest, I shall say I didn’t like her work in first place. That’s because I didn’t quite understand it. But things change and now I’m glad I saw it different way. The power of her work flows throughout her captured objects than of the way she doing it. Dar colors, flashes definitely aren’t my cup of tea. However, the reasons, stories and personages hit me deeply. Her strong, real and truthful images of intimate and personal spaces she occupied – her own one and her loved ones, transfer the observer into those realities, close and far away from his/hers.

A family tragedy marked Nan and she started recording her life and the life of the people around her. She spent serious amount of time around drag queens, homosexuals, drugs, violence and illness. A lot of her friends died from AIDS, which, in my opinion, made her much stronger and her work – mightier.

‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ (1996) represents her self-portraits and personal life stories as well as her friend’s ones. Her point of view and the reasons of photographing such moments, which on the other hand not always look good, show her decision of honestly life record. Also complimenting essays about her work, in which I really got a sign of knowing her better.

One of the series deeply touched me is that of her friend Cookie, who died a couple of months after her spouse. That huge lost and especially a letter for Cookie, literally made me cry.

“By capturing the present, Goldin instinctively knew that the record would be ultimately deliver a past. Out of the flux of experience, she captures moments that cumulatively tell stories of love, friendship, desire, and their aftermaths. Her camera freezes the comings and goings of the social experience of desire: love and hate in intimate relationships, moments of isolation, self-revelation, and adoration; the presentation of the sexual self freed from the constraints of biological destiny.”

~ ‘In/Of Her Time: Nan Goldin’s Photographs’, Elisabeth Sussman

‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ is actually a mirror of Goldin to us and from us to us. Is a mirror of her life and relationships reflected back into ourselves and our lifes. A reflection of what we are and what we want to be, a reflection of feminine observation. It’s a mirror of reality, a mirror of self esteem and demotion; a mirror of representation; a mirror of history.

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