DRAF Study #19: Jim Goldberg by Kojo Abudu

DRAF’s Study Series are a series of focused case-studies of works from the David Roberts Collection. Each presentation centres on a single work or series. DRAF invites a writer to study the work in depth, from its technical and material history to its position in the artist’s practice and contemporary debates.

Kojo Abudu has chosen to write about photographer Jim Goldberg‘s acclaimed series, Rich and Poor, of which there are 10 works in the David Roberts Collection. Reflecting on the social and political nuances at play in the images, he writes:

“Goldberg’s rather simple approach – his unique combination of anecdotal, handwritten texts by his subjects and straight-forward black and white photography of the subjects in their homes – creates a space of intimacy (between text and image, the personal and the political, photographer and subject, the viewer and the viewed) that allows for a subtle but expansive unearthing of these historical and contemporary societal relations.” (Kojo Abudu, Study #19, 2020)

Rich and Poor is the first major body of work by American artist Jim Goldberg (b. 1953, New Haven, Connecticut) made between 1977 and 1985 in San Francisco. It is composed of over 50 mixed media works that combine silver gelatin prints with handwritten text in black ink. The works measure 35.6 x 27.9 cm.

Now living and working in Northern California, Goldberg’s work has had a strong influence on the development of social documentary photography. He has combined image and text in unique configurations to explore social processes of marginalisation through mechanisms of class, age, and migration.

Read Kojo Abudu’s complete in-depth analysis of the socio-economic narratives at play in the photography series here.

Kojo Abudu is an art critic, researcher and curator based between London, New York and Lagos. His research adopts a transnational, cross-disciplinary approach to modern and contemporary art, intersecting with black studies, queer theory, postcolonial theory, and phenomenology. He contributes to a variety of publications and institutions including Frieze and The Zuckerman Museum of Art. He won the 2019 Frieze Writer’s Prize.

  • Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor - My Dream Was To Become, 1982, gelatin print. Courtesy David Roberts Collection, the artist and Magnum Photos.
    Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor - My Dream Was To Become, 1982, gelatin print. Courtesy David Roberts Collection, the artist and Magnum Photos.
  • Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor - I Love The Picture, 1982, gelatin print. Courtesy David Roberts Collection, the artist and Magnum Photos.
    Jim Goldberg, Rich and Poor - I Love The Picture, 1982, gelatin print. Courtesy David Roberts Collection, the artist and Magnum Photos.