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MCGINLEY, Ryan

PORTRAIT-MCGINLEYBorn in 1977 in Ramsey, New Jersey.

Lives and works in New York.



Ryan McGinley makes large-scale color photographs of his friends, a group that forms part of New York’s Lower East Side youth culture. McGinley began visiting Manhattan while in high school in New Jersey to spend time with a group of skateboarders. After enrolling at Parsons School of Design, McGinley took up the camera and began photographing his crowd and his lifestyle. McGinley uses photography to break down barriers between public and private spheres of activity. His subjects are willing collaborators. Drawn from skateboard, music, and graffiti subcultures, they perform for the camera and expose themselves with a frank self-awareness that is distinctly contemporary. The camera is both a part of their lives and an accomplice in the construction of the world they wish to create for themselves. The results form a portrait of a generation that is savy about visual culture and acutely aware of how identity can be communicated through photography.

McGinley’s newest photographs signal a departure from the urban youth culture images for which the artist is well known.While he is best known for capturing intimate and everyday images of his extended family of friends, McGinley has been working almost exclusively in natural settings outside of New York City. For the first time, he has set up situations specifically to be photographed, but he also creates the conditions in which his subjects can lose themselves in the moment – as when a group of young people climb naked into the upper branches of a tree or float underwater at night. In these new pictures, McGinley has embraced nature as a site of freedom, and he searches for and captures a sense of buoyancy and release.

Ryan McGinley presented his work at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2005, nominated by Kathy Ryan for the Discovery Award: Ryan McGinley at the Atelier de Chaudronnerie.