Simultaneously intimate and iconic, Nan Goldin’s photograph of her friends and drag queens, Misty and Joey, is part of a series of photographs capturing the artist’s friends and lovers navigating love, sex, and relationships in the era of AIDS. This photograph first appeared in her influential work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979–96), which was originally conceived in the early 1980s as a 45-minute slide show accompanied by a rock soundtrack. The “Ballad” changed over time, as the artist added to and edited the work, and eventually comprised over 700 images.
Selections of these 700 photographs, which capture the intimate, everyday lives of Goldin’s “tribe,” as she calls them, were published in a visual diary in 1986 that become emblematic of the era. Goldin has since become known for this type of photographic chronicling and has published several other volumes, including a collaboration with Aperture magazine in 2020 for a special issue called “Ballads” featuring a curated group of Goldin’s photographs. According to Aperture, “few works have impacted the world of photography like Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’”
This photograph captures two of the recurring subjects of the “Ballad,” the drag queens Joey and Misty. In this work, the unflinching candor of Goldin’s style and Misty’s confident gaze belie the personal relationship between photographer and subject.
Text Written by Gail Stavitsky (Chief Curator)
This work is not on view.