The photographer picked up her camera to document quarantine in the Brooklyn apartment she shared with friend and muse, Thora Siemsen
For over five decades, photographer Nan Goldin has been taking pictures of people caught in the maelstrom of existence. Her unflinching portraits have tenderly documented communities and individuals existing at the extremities – be it in the throes of desire, addiction, or illness; outliers, at odds with the dominant rhythms of everyday life.
In a new major solo exhibition in New York, the artist debuts a new series of photographs created during a time when the whole world was plunged into an irregular period of isolation and estrangement. Goldin’s untitled quarantine project chronicles the strange hinterland of 2020-2021. This series revolves around portraits of her friend and muse, writer Thora Siemsen, along with pictures of the photographer’s Brooklyn apartment where the pair whiled away the pandemic playing backgammon and watching movies.
While she’s been drawn to the natural world in some of her more recent work, this untitled series represents a return to the highly personal portrait photography for which she’s best known. “I was very lucky Thora came into my life when she did,” she recently told the New York Times. “I hadn’t photographed a person in years. I was more inspired by the sky, or by going into my archive of tens of thousands of slides to make new pieces. It’s very intimate for me to photograph someone. I need to feel a deep connection, and that can become deeper through the process.”
The pair struck up a friendship when Siemsen flew to New York to interview Goldin in 2019. Back in Colorado, the young writer kept frenetically in touch with the world-renowned photographer. “When we heard about the impending lockdown, we had a conversation about what it would look like to quarantine together,” Siemsen explained. “I made the decision to move into her home in Clinton Hill quickly, but it was the right one.”
The exhibition also encompasses Goldin’s collection of large skies and landscapes, which she’s taken on her travels all over the world and span the last three decades. “The rich tonality and subtlety of these large images convey an ethereal, abstract quality that sits in counterpoint to the rest of the exhibition,” says the gallery. “Goldin’s skies float, unframed, evoking the enormity of the sky and her desire to photograph emptiness.”
Alongside these two new series, the exhibition at New York’s Marian Goodman Gallery features important work from Goldin’s archive presented as newly edited slide shows. The Other Side (1993–2021), Sirens (2019-2020), and Memory Lost (2019–2021) will all feature in this, her first solo show in New York for five years. A new limited edition tote bag will also be launched to coincide with the opening of the exhibition, with all profits going to P.A.I.N.
Visit the gallery above to take a look through some of the work appearing in Nan Goldin: Memory Lost.
Nan Goldin: Memory Lost is showing at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York until June 12. To visit the exhibition, please schedule an appointment here