Blink and you might have missed it, but this week, photographer Nan Goldin—and her photographs—make a brief cameo on HBO show, The Deuce, a series set in 1970s era New York City about the rise of the pornography industry.
“They call that art?” Goldin, who plays a dismissive patron asks bar owner Vincent Martino (played by James Franco) as she looks at a photograph of her younger self. “I coulda done that.”
If you are already familiar with her work, it's a clever a good one-liner. Goldin lived and photographed New York City during the same era, and the images that appear in her most well-known book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, documents the lives of her and her friends, who were living in a post-Stonewall New York. The people depicted in Goldin's images would fit nicely into the seedy bars where the HBO Show takes place. The High Hat is actually a stand-in for an old Times Square dive called Tin Pan Alley, which is featured prominently in Goldin's work.
Moments later a photographer named Viv—a composite character meant to represent a photographer like Goldin—pops into the scene snapping a photo of Vincent.
“Viv’s got an eye for the marginalized,” says Abby Parker (played by Margarita Levieva). “Bringing out everyone’s humanity.”
It’s a fitting cameo. Throughout her career Goldin’s work has explored the intricacies of human sexuality, relationships and intimacy—but never as an outsider.
"There is a popular notion that the photographer is by nature a voyer, the last one invited to the party," Goldin wrote in the forward of The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. "But I'm not crashing; this is my party. This is my family, my history."
Goldin’s actually spent some time on set too, documenting the actors of the production. According to co-creator of the show David Simon, her iconic images served as a huge inspiration when creating the show.
Essentially, Goldin’s the perfect photographer to make a cameo in a show like The Deuce.