In the late 60s, David Armstrong met Nan Goldin. At that time, both of the to-be artists were just teenagers with no comprehension of how hard or heavy their work would impact the world. But it was the jump off point to a relationship that would go on to possess an undeniable and overlapping chemistry for the rest of their careers. After studying photography alongside one-another, in the late 70s the duo would flip New York's art scene on its head – alongside fellow "Boston School" contemporaries like Mark Morrisroe and Jack Pierson – with their intimate take on portraiture and their place in MoMA PS1's groundbreaking New York/New Waveexhibition in 1981. His working relationship with Goldin continued to ebb and flow throughout his life, with the pair teaming up for books like 1994 release A Double Life, where they juxtaposed the portraits of people they had both shot over two decades of their careers.
For Armstrong, the subjects – usually young men, shot in natural light and with a soft focus, and often in a state of undress – of his work were a continuing thread over the course of his career. In 2001, designer and then creative director at Dior Homme Hedi Slimane approached Armstrong to shoot one of his catwalk shows – leading to his induction into the world of fashion, and a new direction in his work. Armstrong went on to shoot editorials for Vogue Homme and Purple magazine.
Last year at just 60-years-old, Armstrong passed away due to liver cancer, leaving behind a legacy and influence felt decades after he took his first photo – seen in the work of photography’s current generation, like Ryan McGinley.
A new book published by MÖREL Books, titled Polaroids, is full of personal shots of friends like Goldin, ex-lover Bruce Balboni, editor Lisa Love and actress Cookie Mueller, alongside images of family and his surroundings. An extremely intimate portrait of his life, and one which Armstrong himself worked on with the publisher (including the addition of a Frank O’hara poem amongst its pages) the book was released last weekend at the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1. Preview it here.