Nan Goldin goes back to the dive bars in The Deuce

The photographer put in a cameo performance on the HBO show beside James Franco, critiquing her early work
James Franco and Nan Goldin in The Deuce. Photograph Paul Schiraldi / HBO
James Franco and Nan Goldin in The Deuce. Photograph Paul Schiraldi / HBO

In our 2014 interview with Nan Goldin the photographer revealed her cinematic ambitions. “I want to make narrative films,” she said, adding that she was looking for a screenwriter to adapt three books into screenplays.

Now she seems to be taking a step closer to storytelling with a guest appearance in the fourth episode of the second season of The Deuce, David Simons’ (The Wire) period drama about New York’s vice trade in the 1970s and 80s.

Goldin appears as an unnamed dive-bar patron, critiquing a display of photographs. In the show, the aspiring photographer Viv shot these pictures; however, the actual picture hung on the set that Goldin examines is her own composition: Buzz and Nan at the Afterhours, New York City, 1980.

And that’s not the only way her still work has found its way onto the screen. Simons, the show's creator, says Goldin’s pictures of Times Square in the 1970s inspired everything on The Deuce, from the costume department to storyboarding.



James Franco – who plays a pair of twins on the show, Vincent and Frankie Martino – has also revealed that his characters are based on a couple of real-life bar tenders, who worked in a place called Tin Pan Alley, where Goldin also shot some of the images for her seminal photographic series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.


Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983, by Nan Goldin
Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983, by Nan Goldin

So, what does Nan in the show think of Nan the photographer? Not much. “They call that art?” her character says. “I coulda done that.”

To see how Nan did do that, and continues to do that, take a look at these books, including The Devils Playgound and Eden and After. And if you want to invest in a print by this influential, highly acclaimed photographer, consider one of our Collectors’ Editions.

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