Nan Goldin, the subject of Laura Poitras’ Venice Film Festival-winning documentary “ All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” is a name you probably either know well or not at all. In the art world, she is unequivocally famous. Her photographs depicting downtown life in the late 1970s and '80s and the vibrant, glamorous bohemians she encountered on the scene, like John Waters It-Girl Cookie Mueller, have been displayed at the Whitney, the Tate and MoMA.
To look at any of the photos in her most well-known work, the ever-evolving slideshow “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” you can see how influential she was on generations to come with her raw, public-private snapshots of parties that didn’t end until dawn, beautiful “queens” and even her face, one month after a “dope-sick” boyfriend beat her so badly she almost lost her eye. The New York Times review of a collection of those photographs at the time said that “The Ballad” was to the 1980s what Robert Frank’s “The Americans” was to the 1950s. And it would become a devastating document of many of the young lives lost in the AIDS epidemic.