Ryan McGinley has been making photographs since 1998, and received early acclaim from some of the most important art institutions in the U.S. His work is quintessentially American in its spirit of exuberance and optimism and in its lust for adventure, exploration, open space and ultimate freedom. In his preoccupation with the journey and the people who share it, McGinley is a direct heir to authors Mark Twain, Jules Verne and Jack Kerouac, and to photographers such as Robert Frank, Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans. There is also an element of hippy abandon (his frolicking nude youths in nature recall Woodstock images) and the staged spontaneity that harks back to the Happenings of the 60s and 70s. In 2005, after several years of documenting his New York City subcultures, McGinley took his camera and friends (his source of models) on the open road. Every summer since then, he has traveled the American countryside, photographing his model-friends, nude, in spectacular or abstracted landscapes and other situations.
In his intimate black and white portraits of skateboarders, musicians, graffiti artists and other people in his environment are willing collaborators in McGinley’s project. There is the sense that as he documents their personalities and explores their motivations, that the subjects themselves are involved in their own process of self-discovery. The resulting images are intimate, sexy, joyous, unabashedly frivolous – and totally honest.