Through The Looking Glass: David Goldman uses his camera as a tool for social justice
When David Goldman was offered his first full time job after graduation from Sheridan’s photography program in 1991, there was no question in his mind as to what he wanted. “It was my first professional decision not to take the golden handcuffs,” he laughs.
In a career that has led him from taking the portraits of the rich and famous in Hollywood to raising awareness for the poorest regions of India and beyond, Goldman’s work as a photographer and portrait/documentary filmmaker has stretched across three decades and much of the globe.
Born and raised in Toronto, Goldman’s first exposure to photography was through a high school co-op program with fashion photographer Dan Lim. Although Goldman’s ideal career as a teen was race car driver, it was on a kibbutz in Israel that he found his desire to explore photography further. Drawn to Sheridan by the practical nature of its two-year program, Goldman found new skills. “I’d never considered myself to be an artsy person,” he says. “There’s no question that I learned a lot at Sheridan and it gave me the confidence and credibility to call photographers to ask to be their assistant. I had to learn the technical language before I could be creative.”
When Goldman graduated in 1991, he freelanced for a while, and was offered a job in commercial photography for The Watt Group. Instead, he decided to go his own way, taking his dog and driving across the U.S. in the summer of 1994. Eventually making his way to Los Angeles, Goldman’s television writer uncle connected him to WB records, and a one-time gig photographing Van Dyke Parks, who did orchestration for the Beach Boys.
Determined to further his career, Goldman started working in the Los Angeles community of photographers’ assistants, with prestigious companies such as Smashbox Studios, which works with Vanity Fair and Esquire.
Then, a turning point in Goldman’s life shifted his focus from assistant to photographer, working on album covers including the iconic Blink 182 Enema of The State in 1999, which sold over 15 million copies.
In 2005, faced with a slowdown in the music industry due to downloading and digital streaming, Goldman decided to move to New York. There, moved by his best friend’s diagnosis with breast cancer, Goldman began doing portraits at Gilda’s Club, a charity supporting cancer patients. His work with philanthropic organizations continued with a life changing trip to Ethiopia with a group of citizen journalists/photographers to raise awareness for the Hamlin Fistula Hospital.
“It transformed how I thought about my work,” says Goldman. “It was a big transition, and I started seeing myself as more of a portrait and documentary filmmaker.”
Goldman began collaborating with social justice projects, such as The UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women, helping to protect migrant workers who leave their homes in Bangladesh to Jordan and Dubai, and the Nomi Network, a non-profit economic development agency fighting human trafficking in India and Cambodia. He’s turned his lens on the perspectives of class and human dignity through his project #thebirthlottery, exploring how the circumstances of one’s birth informs — but does not necessarily define — one’s destiny.
“I feel we have a moral responsibility because of our luxuries,” says Goldman. “I consider it to be an honour that people welcome me into their community, and take that intimate moment when they allow me to shoot very seriously. I think it’s wonderful that I get to share their stories, and it’s incumbent on me to tell the world.”