Why Nan Goldin thinks kids are from another planet
The photographer talks through her Eden and After book in a great new Tate video
Do Nan Goldin and Philip Larkin belong together? The British poet seemed to shy away from experience, while the American photographer has embraced it, with heroic vigour. Yet, as she told us in a recent interview, she thinks she would have been the kind of parent described in Larkin’s 1971 poem, This Be The Verse (the one that starts ‘they fuck you up your mum and dad….’). Goldin goes on to read from that poem in this new Tate interview, and says that she would have liked to have included it at the end of her new book about childhood, Eden and After, though on reflection it was perhaps too negative for so beautiful and lively a book.
“I think the world is horrible,” she says, “but I realise there is light in the darkness.” Some of the impetus for making the book came from wanting to understand her friend's bright, beautiful children a little better. “I became really curious about why we don’t remember anything before we’re three or four,” she says. “I came to believe that children are from another planet.” Though she doesn’t say this in a glib way.
“There’s a story among my friends,” she says “about a four-year-old saying to a baby ‘do you remember God? Because I’m beginning to forget.’ I felt that babies come from somewhere else; they’re closer to where we come from and where we go.”
A touching insight into a series of photographs that does trap some of the evanescent, carefree quality of childhood. Nan says she never dressed them up herself, and didn’t direct them, either.
She singles out one of our favourites from the book, Orlando and Lily dancing, Brooklyn, 2006, as one of her cherished images too. “I don’t see adults very often in that unmitigated state of joy,” she explains; and that's coming from someone who's taken in a wide range of human experience. For more, watch the whole interview, below, and for to see the whole book, buy it from the people who made it, here.