Jim Goldberg’s Coming and Going
A closer look at "Coming and Going," Goldberg's deeply autobiographical account of his life from 1980 to present day.
“In some ways I feel that I was a lousy documentarian of my life,” says Jim Goldberg while on press in Italy for his new photobook, Coming and Going. “I mean…. I didn’t photograph as much as I should have. There were so many moments I missed.”
Goldberg, a member of Magnum since 2003, has been working on the book for over 20 years. “Coming and Going was first born in 1999,” he explains, “and at the time it seemed as if it were ready to explode into life. I struggled with it for a few years and then thought — enough. I can usually figure these things out, but it’s not the time.”
At that point, he directed his attention to his body of work Open See and then Candy. But throughout the years Goldberg continued to record his personal life — and in the mid-2000s resumed his efforts towards the book. Goldberg describes the act of turning the gaze inward as difficult, “At some point I felt I needed to apply the same rigor and discipline to my everyday life that I would to someone else’s.”
Over two decades later, the book is finished, presenting an intimate account of Goldberg’s life through his unique practice of collage, annotation, and montage. His story loosely follows a linear narrative, spanning over forty years, and is divided into two parts; the first covering the period of around 1980 to 1996, and the second from 1997 to present-day. Throughout, we see snippets of familiar faces and references from his career to date, such as Raised by Wolves (1995), Open See (2009), and The Last Son (2016), reminding us that the personal runs congruently alongside public-facing projects.
Coming and Going feels as colossal in content as it is in size — photographs of a lifetime layered upon one another, letters and diary entries, a swath of imagery that overwhelms and guides us through a lifetime of experiences. Flicking through the pages of the large paperback, we follow Goldberg’s personal histories, including his father’s illness, getting married and divorced, the birth of his daughter, the death of loved ones, and the start of a new life. Grief, love, loss, and laughter blend together from one page to the next in waves of memory.
"It became more of a laboratory of ideas of how to talk about these things without it being as specific to my life as possible"
And yet despite how personal Coming and Going is in essence, there is a sense of universality that pervades. It is specific enough that we are able to engage with the narrative thread and character development, yet it addresses essential life themes in a way that is able to spark careful reflection on the passing of time and the lives that we lead. Goldberg uses a variety of cinematic and narrative techniques to explore complex questions and stories that make this book a page-turner — and endlessly relatable.