After working for many years as a movie makeup artist for Tom Tykwer, Dani Levy and Wim Wenders, I became used to getting very close to people, no matter how famous, young or old. After my second child was born, I chose to do something different by fulfilling my long-time dream of making documentaries. So I decided to specialize in documentary portraits.
There are so many stories that encourage, inspire, or teach us. That is probably the reason why I love to look at documentary portraits or make them myself. It's important that my subjects come across as authentic, and I do my best to reflect them as honestly as I can. With the New York, Berlin, and Paris-based photographer Nan Goldin, I had the good fortune to find a protagonist who is touching and confusing and has an incredible sense of humor. Nan gives the people around her deep insights into their lives, even if she doesn't reveal everything about them.
I've known Nan since the 1990s, when my photographer friend Christine Fenzl, who is also in the film, was her assistant. Of course I was an admirer of her well-known, cult-status works, such as The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.
Nan sees the work through the magical eyes of a child, which is why my film, Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face, starts with her shooting children. For Nan, art is closely intertwined with daily life. She observes things as she walks around, eats, cleans up her apartment, and hangs out with friends. She always has her camera with her, and this is often how her best photos are taken -- very casually. I loved following her for hours doing this, and I wanted to capture that in my film.
Before I came along, producer Irene Hofer had already been working on a Nan Goldin documentary for two years. The director of that project didn't really connect with Nan, who was not keen to have a documentary made about her entire life.
I'd already shot a documentary with Irene about the German actor Henry Hubchen, so she knew that I shoot with my own camera. Irene asked me to go to Vienna to shoot Nan for one day. As soon as I met Nan, I felt such a deep connection; it was almost like falling in love. As we worked together that day, she seemed to feel that she could trust me.
After that day, her assistant told me she wanted me to shoot the whole film myself and accompany her everywhere. She invited me to her place in Paris, to an exhibition in Turin, to a visit with her friends in Berlin. In a way, I had become a part of her family.
As a photographer, Nan is behind the camera herself and really doesn't like to be in front of it. So she knows intuitively what and how much she wants to reveal of herself. Still, it took a while before she could even watch herself in the film.
The best moment of the filmmaking process was watching the film together at the premiere, where we sat next to each other, holding hands. She likes the film not being a traditional biography, but more like a snapshot of her in a particular moment in time.
To me, the biggest gift is that Nan trusted me to make this film with her before I even believed in it myself.
Nan Goldin is the most inspiring person I have ever met.
Director Sabine Lidl's Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face will play at the Quad Cinema in NYC on June 13-19 and at the KINO! Festival of German Films.