Diving for Pearls

Nan Goldin's romance glimmers through reality

The breathtaking work by photographer Nan Goldin in her most recent book, Diving for Pearls, seems to point towards contextualizing the life within the inanimate, the intrinsic within the universal, the beauty within the mundane, and the ephemeral within the eternal. Like golden sunlight draped over your boyfriend’s sleeping head, this hauntingly intimate book struck me as an exploration of the ignored beauty that lies in the most well-lit corners of reality. Three image series are interspersed with essays by Glenn O’Brien, Lotte Dinse, and Goldin herself, exposing varied subject matter in the spirit of unintentionally stumbling upon beauty.


Goldin’s remarks, although printed last, seem to frame the first section of images. The thread that unites the two is a celebration of mistakes and the effort put into one’s work; the images presented are akin to those often discarded for their lack of distinctive focus and Goldin’s text reiterates the struggle to glean one beautiful shot from myriad shots taken.


Loosely organized around hazy landscapes, portraits fashioned through double and triple exposure, and still lives of statues and taxidermy, the first section of images in Diving for Pearls translates as a tender hug in the midst of a thunderstorm.





In his essay, O’Brien refers to Goldin as a rebel and a romantic. “Beauty in art is not just rare today, it is practically taboo, banished from the show it dominated for centuries.” O’Brien contests that Goldin’s photos may operate as subversive for upholding standards of beauty that have been largely left by the wayside. The images following his essay are arresting and honest portraits, each having a unique texture and smell about them. You can nearly hear the noise in the background of each scene.


The last of the images are from Goldin’s series titled “Saints.” Here, Goldin parallels portraits created by various painters with her own portraits that, in some way, mimic the shape and tone of their counterpart. Dinse’s precursory essay describes this series as an “explicit engagement with the interdependencies of content and form between photography and painting…photographically portraying figures taken from historical paintings stems from the great fascination that these paintings exert on the artist.” In a sense, the series makes reference to the holiness we can ascribe to those we hold dear to us — Goldin elevates her subjects to an immortal state by capturing them on film in the same manner that the masters captured theirs in paint strokes.


Diving for Pearls is a reminder to always look for beauty and makes reference to the lost art of connection. Establishing a relationship with space and time and those around us is vital in navigating the chaotic present state of the world. Enjoy her work, and be reminded of the simple goods found all around us.






Click here to purchase the book.