“The ideal world would be you didn’t know what gender people where till they took their clothes off,” iconic photographer Nan Goldin says in a recent video interview about her new book Eden And After. Decades of photographs of her friends’ children are compiled here and they are distinctly Nan Goldin, filled with secret knowledge, free in androgyny. The narrative is built around babies coming from somewhere else, about children younger than four being closer to “where we come from and where we go… And then they’re taught to forget.”
“I think the world is horrible, but I’ve realized there’s light in the darkness,” a calmer, gentler Nan Goldin says. She admits that she still takes photos every day, but it’s difficult now. “There’s no more cytochrome. You need a scan to make a print. I don’t know what a scan is. I spent most of the years of my life on a light table with a loop looking at little slides and moving them around. That is my medium. It would be, I guess, if you were an oil painter and you had to paint acrylics. But worse.” Then she reads This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin. Goldin wanted to end the book this way. The press keeps sputtering out these happy little misinterpretations, pushing their invented storyline about how Nan Goldin is at peace now because she photographs kids and not drug-addled drag queens. It’s not exactly so.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.They may not mean to, but they do.They fill you with the faults they hadAnd add some extra, just for you.But they were fucked up in their turnBy fools in old-style hats and coats,Who half the time were soppy-sternAnd half at one another’s throats.Man hands on misery to man.It deepens like a coastal shelf.Get out as early as you can,And don’t have any kids yourself.
(Image: Lily Kissing Herself in the Mirror, NYC, 1991, Nan Goldin/Phaidon Press Inc.)