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Just published by Phaidon, Nan Goldin's Eden and After makes no secret of its move away from the dropouts, drag queens, addicts and assorted nonconformists who peopled the personal-diary slideshows of her early years. Now the artist takes us to the heart of childhood in all its wildness, freedom, purity, and malleability: to the heart of that lost paradise.
In 300 photos dating from Goldin's beginnings up to the present, the book relates the life and evolution of children as if they came from—and returned to—another planet. The children in question are often—inevitably, given their proximity—from her "tribe". For the first time we see humor peeping through in her images, together with new hues—yellow, white, green, etc.—and the same authenticity, the same realism that, in addition to her sharp sense of color and composition, characterize her work. As she told Jonas Cuénin in their recent interview, "Eden is a return to purity, to a time without judgment. I think of Eden as a state of being human." A state we are wrenched out of by adults and social conditioning.

The freedom to be and to become
Drag queens or children: in the final analysis Goldin always stands up for the freedom to be and to become. As someone who cannot understand why people should be shocked by something as natural as a naked body, she feels that children's autonomy and identity, like personal sexual identity, are never given the respect they deserve.
Her driving ambition, though, is not simply to rebel and to show, but to make us see: "The more I look at Peter Hujar's pictures the more I see. Whereas with most photographers, when you look for five minutes you've seen the lot. That's one of the reasons I curse photography. I've always wanted to be a filmmaker. I'm crazy about what's said indirectly. That's what makes me stop and think. My biggest doubt: am I a real artist?"

• Nan Goldin, Eden and After, Phaidon, 85 €.

For Nan Goldin's interview with Jonas Cuénin see "Everybody a Child", Camera 6, pp. 24–28.

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