A Note on Ryan McGinley


As I have been travelling I haven’t had much time to update the blog. I am trying to keep up with my reading and have become interested in the informal, intimate style of photographer Ryan McGinley. There was a recent exhibition of his in Seoul but I was not able to make it.


Photographing friends, lovers and people in his crowd, his early exhibit “The Kids Are Alright” (2003) displayed an intent to make an authentic record of his life, documenting his lifestyle in a candid, playful way. Charlotte Cotton in ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’, highlights an awareness of the heritage in contemporary art of McGinley’s work referencing the style of artists such as Nan Goldin and Larry Clark. Coincidentally Clark and McGinley met when the latter had started studying graphic design in New York. Whilst these two proceeding artists displayed a vigor and intent in capturing their daily lives, there is an absence of ‘angst and pathos’ apparent in earlier works of intimate photography.


The ‘knowing playfulness’ of McGinley and his subjects was an apparent departure from the documentation of Clark and Goldin. His subjects are drawn from skateboard, music, graffiti and gay cultures. They perform for the camera and show a delight in showing off to it. The visual style and apparent absence of care for technical aspects – an out of focus portrait for instance – lends weight to this playful style.

tim and cigatette 2002

McGinley’s approach to photographing human subjects is a unique and interesting visual style, and something that could be considered when approaching a subject for a formal or candid portrait. It has something of the documentary about it except because the photographer knows the subjects so intimately we are left with a more personal picture. The length of time he photographed his subjects is also a good takeaway point for approaches to photographing people.


A Note on Ryan McGinley