In a statement released Sunday, Luc Sante, the chairman of the selection committee for the award, praised Goldin for creating a medium "unto itself, halfway between still photography and cinema."
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The MacDowell Colony, an artists' retreat in New Hampshire, gave the prestigious award to Goldin. Previous recipients of the MacDowell Medal, founded in 1960, include John Updike, Merce Cunningham, Georgia O'Keeffe and Kiki Smith.
Recently, Goldin, who lives in New York City and Paris, had her exhibit "Scopophilia" shown in both cities. It paired autobiographical photos with those she had taken of paintings and sculptures in th Louvre, which, The New York Times remarks, allowed her to spend months alone in its galleries on days when they were closed.
Goldin, 58, started her career documenting gay and transsexual subcultures in Boston. She then moved on to downtown New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, capturing friends, lovers and strangers as they engaged in quotidian behavior. These photographs offered a glimpse into both the everyday and the extraordinary, including sex acts, addiction and self-reflection. She is known for her work in slideshows of her photographs set to music, including "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," a landmark 45-minute compilation of more than 900 photos including one of herself severely bruised entitled "Nan One Month After Being Battered," and "I'll Be Your Mirror," which is on YouTube.
Goldin's "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" (taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera) has also been shown recently as part of the excellent exhibit "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera," which I caught in London two years ago before it moved to San Francisco and Minneapolis. London's Tate Modern says that "picturing the photographer's friends and trusting acquaintances, the slides seem to invite us into a world that is universally human yet highly specific." Goldin has described "Ballad" as "the diary I let people read."
"Ballad" fit perfectly into the exhibit, which explored different aspects of looking at life. "There is a popular notion that the photographer is by nature a voyeur, the last one invited to the party," Goldin has said. "But I'm not crashing, this is my party. This is my family, my history."