“The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read,” Nan Goldin explained in a 1986 interview for Aperture Magazine. “The diary is my form of control over my life.” The iconic work, comprising almost 700 images, radically altered our understanding of photography and what it can do. Goldin’s protagonists – including the artist herself – are captured in intimate moments of love, ecstasy, violence, and trauma. Unlike so much photography that maintains distance, these images are up close, honest and grippingly human.
Potent parallels can be drawn between Goldin and the young American photographer Chance DeVille, whose work occupies a similar vulnerability, using the camera as a tool to describe and metabolise personal trauma. As a child, DeVille witnessed their mother Tammy suffer physical and mental abuse at the hands of her ex-husband David, which began a cascade of physical and mental health issues.
Among many other injuries, DeVille’s mother has a metal plate in her head from one of the beatings. This plate and the severe trauma of what she endured left her with late-onset schizophrenia and severe PTSD. Alcoholism and addiction became her method of managing the aftermath of violence. “She’s been on disability [benefits] ever since and hasn’t been able to work or hold down normal relationships,” DeVille explains. “David’s Mark (ongoing) has been my way of understanding her experience and its impact. It looks at the relationship between my Mom and me, my relationship with myself, and my relationship with my family.”