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Goldin, Nan.

Ballad of Sexual Dependency, The.


Goldin, Nan. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. New York: Aperture, (1986).
Oblong 8vo.; illustrated throughout with color photographs; dark blue endpapers; blue cloth backed blue paper boards, embossed on front board; stamped in gilt on spine; pictorial color dust jacket. In a specially made slipcase.
First edition. A presentation copy, inscribed to publisher and photographer Ralph Gibson on the copyright page: For Ralph Gibson, / from one of your oldest fans. / Merry X-mas 88 / love, Nan Goldin.
Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency -perhaps the most influential contemporary photo book since Diane Arbus's 1972 monograph-originated as a slide show with music.  Starting in 1979, Goldin, who had accumulated an enormous number of color snapshots of herself and her friends, began projecting slides of these pictures organized in thematic clusters and accompanied by snippets of recorded music that segued from Lotte Lenya to Nico to Screaming Jay Hawkins. Though never the same twice, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (as it was eventually named) developed a serious cult fallowing in the downtown New York clubs and alternative art spaces where it was shown; Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman, who called the piece "a near-definitive portrait of a particular Lower East Side bohemia," named it one of the ten best films of 1985.
Ballad is still shown as an evolving slide installation  (the version in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art includes 690 images and runs 45 minutes), but the book's more leisurely, contemplative, and compressed narrative defined and popularized the Goldin experience for a wider audience. Taking its cue from the slide show, the book is sequenced as a series of linked images that's build and interweave like cinematic montages around the themes of family, friendship, love, and loss. Ballad's contents page lists these visual passages by the titles of songs programmed into Goldin's slide presentation-"Don't Make Me Over," "I'll Be Your Mirror," "Downtown," "All Tomorrow's Parties"-but these divisions don't interrupt the flow of the photos themselves except at narrative turning points, which are indicated by a blank left-hand page and a single image on the right.
Goldin, who is an unusually articulate guide to her own undertakings, describes Ballad in her introduction here as "the diary I let people read," and the work's intimacy, immediacy, and candor helped push photography into more intensely emotional territory. Goldin acknowledges Larry Clark's largely autobiographical work as a key precedent, along with Warhol's Chelsea Girls and his other underground Our Gang films. A significant book, chosen as one of the 101 most influential photo-books of the century (p. 252 of Roth's The Book of 101 Books).

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