Ryan McGinley Discusses Nudist Colonies, Teenagers and Matisse

Five things we learned about Ryan McGinley from WeTransfer's online exhibition of his newly published photography.

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WeTransfer’s latest project uses their file sharing platform to showcase new work by Ryan McGinley. The 15 never-published-before photos are presented alongside an intimate interview with New York Times Magazine photography director Kathy Ryan, and we learned a few new things about “the most important photographer in America”.

1. He was raised by teenagers.

McGinley’s parents had seven kids in seven years, and then he was born 11 years after that. “I was raised by teenagers, you know? I got a lot of attention,” he said. “Everyone wanted to bring me on their adventures, which was really fun, and my brothers and sisters were so different.”

2. Nudist colonies didn’t want him around.

When McGinley first started shooting nudes, he location-scouted nudist colonies. Where else can you shoot people naked? However, the nudist colonies “didn’t want [them] running around jumping off things and climbing trees and taking lots of photos,” he said.

This led him to cornfields, forests and national parks. “…I realized if you go out to the middle of nowhere, where there’s nobody around, you can shoot people nude for as long as you want!”

3. He has five to ten people at photo shoots.

From assistants with walkie talkies playing lookout to naked models crouching in bushes, McGinley’s photo shoots are not quiet affairs. “There are usually five to ten people that are there to help create a vibe. I like to surround myself with that many people because I grew up like that. So creating this family that travels together feels pretty comfortable to me.”

4. Matisse inspired his interest in bodies.

“The first kind of painting that really touched me was the Matisse Dancers piece that they had at the MoMA, of everyone holding hands,” he said. “There was something about the body I’ve always found fascinating.”

5. He can sacrifice comfort for beauty.

Underneath the striking beauty of McGinley’s photographs is a situation that’s less than ideal. “…You might be cold, you might have to go through some sludge, but the final product will be worth it in the end.” Other times it’s a super early wake-up call to catch the light. “Do you know how hard it is to get people up at 4am and be like, hey we’re going to get up before the sun comes up just so we can take some photos?”

But it’s all worth it—“I think a big part of my artistry is seeing the potential in landscapes,” McGinley says.

Head over to WeTransfer’s This Works to read the rest of the interview and see more exclusive images.


Other articles you might be interested in:
Why I Got Naked For My Photography
Why Nude Models Are Not ‘Misled’ Women
Politically-Charged Female Nude Self-Portraits on Pillows

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