Lilacs between Jesus' legs, Aubazine
Church, France, 2005
Goldin, Courtesy Galerie Srüth Magers, Köln, München
Loss has taken on different faces in your life: first drugs, then AIDS.
AIDS was like a holocaust. Since AIDS, my work has been primarily about
loneliness. So many of the people I loved are dead. I am obsessed with
Are you afraid of death?
I didn’t use to be.
But because I’m not on drugs or alcohol anymore, it has become more real
to me. I don’t believe in God, but I hope there is reincarnation. Over the
last few years, my work has been about a kind of spiritual search. I’m
looking for something that is bigger than me, particularly in the desert
and the sea. So I photograph them a lot. This work hasn’t been shown very
much, but there are thousands of pictures. These two things define my
spirituality. The desert and the sea are like infinity compared to us.
Stormy landscape, Dordogne Valley, 2005
©Nan Goldin, Courtesy Galerie Srüth Magers, Köln, München
For you, art as biography seems to be inevitable.
I have made my
work very autobiographical, more than most artists, like a diary that I
let people read. I share so much of myself with the world that it makes me
A leitmotif in your work is water.
really know that I had any leitmotifs until David [Armstrong] made me
conscious of them, such as water or women in tubs and women in mirrors.
They were unconscious leitmotifs. I just find them very beautiful – women
in baths. One could say that it’s a metaphor for birth, but my work isn’t
really metaphorical. That’s what people find hard to accept. It doesn’t
signify anything. But it’s becoming more metaphorical now. Some of it is a
metaphor for loss or loneliness, like the empty rooms, but most of it is
just what it is.
Nan Goldin and Monika Sprüth, Munich 2005
Photo: Piotr Nathan
Over the last years,
you’ve also changed from flashlight to daylight.
real light has become precious to me because all the years I was doing
drugs I never went outside into the daylight. Now I’ve become very
conscious of light. I don’t like to use the flash anymore – especially
because the batteries always run out (laughs). Now I prefer to use real
light, even when there isn’t enough of it. Like in the Ballad
, there’s a picture of Suzanne in a red room. People think that I planned
it to be red like that. But I always had the philosophy that if you wanted
to take a picture, you could take it. And so I took it. I didn’t plan it
to be red. I just wanted to take the picture of her with the Mona Lisa. I
have never set up lighting in my life. Now I'm very attracted to the
effects of normal light on flesh and in all its manifestations from
morning to night in land- and cityscapes.
What are your emotions
towards digital photography?
I hate digital photography and I
hate computerized photography. Fictionalized photography – I just don’t
Philip-Lorca diCorcia does it very well, but most people don’t. I
don’t like set-up photography very much. I don’t like fake. I’m interested
in things that are real.