nan goldin’s legendary portraits of disaffected youth get new life

The photographer's landmark series "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," comprised of nearly 700 portraits of youth from Boston to Berlin, is getting an immersive exhibition in New York this weekend.

by Hannah Ongley
10 June 2016, 5:55pm

Before Corinne Day made Kate Moss a poster child for "heroin chic" in the 90s, there was Nan Goldin's seminal 80s photo series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Goldin is often credited with developing the aesthetic that Bill Clinton famously censored. Her stark portraits of city kids from the late 70s through the 80s were controversial, personal, and real. The photographer herself is one of the series' most memorable subjects, partying and fighting and getting high and getting sober with the rest of them. "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read," Goldin wrote of the project. "The diary is my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember." The series has been displayed in multiple formats since its inception, but the large-scale exhibition opening at New York's Museum of Modern Art tomorrow should prove one of the most immersive. The nearly-700 portraits will be presented in their original 35mm format and sequenced against an evocative music soundtrack. Live performances — to be announced during the course of the exhibition — will periodically accompany the presentation. 

The Ballad
The Threepenny Opera

was from the outset conceived as a performance piece. Goldin intended the slideshow exhibition to be set to a score by musicians including The Velvet Underground, James Brown, Nina Simone, Charles Aznavour, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. The project itself takes its name from a song in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's . 

Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

runs from June 11, 2016 through February 12, 2017 at MoMA


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of MoMA

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the ballad of sexual dependency