Books such as You and I by Ryan McGinley and publishers like Twelve Trees/Twin Palms stand as compelling evidence that at least for some subject matter the screen is no substitute for the page
You and I is young photographer Ryan McGinleys first retrospective monograph—its a visually exciting anthology of the manifold twists and turns, stutter-steps and pas Ballonné he follows through the wortld of pictoral story-telling
In addition to the splendidly reproduced photos, this tome includes two essays. One by Sylvia Wolf
MCGinley traces his eclectic tastes to the varied lifestyles and trends he was exposed to as a boy. The youngest of eight children, born on October 17, 1977, to an Irish-Catholic family from Ramsey, New Jersey, he grew up with a wide range of inﬂuences: his father’s passion for the stock market, one brother’s zeal for dressing in drag, one sister’s avid commitment to cheerleading.1 During high school, he spent late afternoons hanging out with teenage skateboarders in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, often ﬁlming them with the family’s Super 8 camera.2 He made his ﬁrst photographs in the late 1990s for assignments in graphic-design classes while he was a student at Parsons School of Design. Shortly thereafter, he began taking color pictures of his friends and lovers with an obsessive fascination for recording every activity, no matter how intimate or insigniﬁcant.
The other by Vince Aletti:
He was just a kid when he first started getting attention — a scamp from Jersey who hung out and partied downtown with the skateboarders, DJs, artists, graffiti writers, and aspiring entrepreneurs who became his first subjects. The early work could be crude and careless, and it wasn’t always clear that McGinley knew good pictures from bad. But his admirers did, and by 2003, when he became the youngest photographer to have a solo show at the Whitney, it was possible to think of him as the Next Big Thing. Or an unusually lucky flash in the pan. Interested observers had every reason to think McGinley was too inexperienced and too unformed to turn the hyped-up buzz of his Whitney debut into a career. His influences — Wolfgang Tillmans, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin — were so apparent that one wondered what would be left once they were burned off. Flash or substance?
Here’s a bit from a conversation with Gus Van Sant:
RM: Whoever I’m photographing, I sort of fall in love with in a way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a boy, it could be a girl too. In a sense, my work is about fantasy. It’s like a film in a way. It’s fiction. But, at the same time, it’s really happening. I’m with these people and we’re at these locations and I think that’s why people really like it, because people want to get lost in the world. People also look at photographs like they’re 100 percent real. There’s still this idea that the image I’m showing them is documentary and they can project their own conclusions or stories as to what’s going on. People will come up to me and say the weirdest things about my photographs.
GVS: Oh really?
RM: Yeah, like their own stories. They’ll describe something and I’ll be like, “Are you sure you’re talking about my photo?” and they’ll say, “Yeah, you know, the one where the person’s running from the burning plane.” Where they got that idea, I have no clue. But just getting back to what I was saying, I feel like there is a sense that you really have to love someone to photograph them. Not in an intimate sense, but I have to fall in love with someone with my camera to make really good pictures of them. I become really enamored of them and it’s almost like I get hypnotized watching them. Do you ever feel the same way?
More photos by Ryan McGinley here
Currently reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters edited by Dan Wakefield (Delacorte Press)