Jim Goldberg

Jim Goldberg (born 1953) is an American photographer and writer whose work reflects long-term, in-depth collaborations with neglected, ignored, or otherwise outside-the-mainstream populations. Goldberg photographs sub-cultures, creating photo collages, and including text with his photographs, often written by his subjects.Goldberg is part of the social aims movement in photography, using a straightforward, cinéma vérité approach, based on a fundamentally narrative understanding of photography. Goldberg’s empathy and the uniqueness of the subjects emerge in his works, “forming a context within which the viewer may integrate the unthinkable into the concept of self. Thus diffused, this terrifying other is restored as a universal.” (Art Forum, Summer 1987)

My only agenda,’ says the photographer Jim Goldberg, ‘is to bring attention to otherwise ignored and shunned lives.’ while picturing the grisly surroundings of the welfare population for his 1970s series Rich and Poor and developed with Raised by Wolves, when he documented teenagers living on the streets in San Francisco and LA. ‘I had a sense that their perceptions were not being observed and considered,’ he says, and so he began asking his subjects to annotate the pictures he took, ensuring his photographs existed as ‘thoughtful encounter, rather than knee-jerk reaction’.

Goldberg is best known for his photographic books, multi-media exhibits and video installations, among them:

Rich and Poor (1985) The book includes photographs of people in their homes along with handwritten comments by them about their lives. For example, the handwriting under the photograph reproduced on the front cover reads “I keep thinking where we went wrong. We have no one to talk to now, however, I will not allow this loneliness to destroy me,— I STILL HAVE MY DREAMS. I would like an elegant home, a loving husband and the wealth I am used to. Countess Vivianna de Bronville.” Although the book received one mixed review shortly after publication,[3] other reviews were positive, and it was later selected as one of the greatest photobooks of the 20th century.

Nursing Home The photographs in a 1988 exhibition of Goldberg’s “The Nursing Home Series” were accompanied by handwritten text by the nursing home residents who were the subjects of the photographs


 Raised by Wolves (1995)

See Vimeo

A major mixed media exhibition by Goldberg concerning homeless children in California entitled “Raised by Wolves” began traveling in 1995 and was accompanied by a book. Goldberg made reference to other artists and photographers; used photographs, videos, objects, and texts to convey meaning; and “let his viewers feel, in some corner of their psyches, the lure of abject lowliness, the siren call of pain.”

Open See (2009).

 Open See vimeo

Open See, a study of refugee, trafficked and migrant populations fleeing wartorn and economically devastated homelands to forge a new life in Europe. It is a mix of Polaroids and large-format photographs featuring his signature use of handwritten comments, combined with archive snaps and drawings to form a multi-dimensional story.

The project began as a Magnum commission for the Athens Olympics in 2004. Greece’s location on the south-eastern tip of Europe makes it one of the busiest transit hubs for illegal migrants, but Goldberg realised he had touched a seam stretching far further than he had imagined. The photographs and scrawled, smudged comments reveal the aspirations and fears of people who might otherwise remain faceless statistics. ‘All I want is a bed to sleep in,’ writes one. ‘I make one dollar a day,’ says another, ‘and I have despair.’

Three years in, he was awarded a grant from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, which enabled him to expand the assignment. Nominated for 2011 Deutsche Börse prize


Goldberg was raised in New Haven, Connecticut in a family of candy sellers. He took an aptitude test in high school that said he should do something in a field where he helped others. He went to college as a Theology major and ended up in photography when a schizophrenic Photo 1 teacher told him he had talent.

Goldberg’s work was featured with that of Robert Adams and Joel Sternfeld in a 1984 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “Three Americans”; the exhibition was described as “a show of politically charged and socially conscious images.”

Goldberg is a Professor of Photography and Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts and has been a full member of the Magnum Photos agency since 2006. He lives and works in San Francisco. His fashion, editorial and advertising work has appeared in numerous publications including W, Details, Flaunt, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rebel, GQ, The New Yorker, and Dazed and Confused. He is represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York, the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco, and Magnum Photos.