Ryan McGinley burst into prominence in his early twenties after circulating copies of a self-published zine of photographs and mounting a DIY show in SoHo. At the age of 25, he became the youngest artist to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. While his early work featured more candid and documentary subjects, in 2003 he began to explore the possibility of photographing directed situations. He was named Photographer of the Year in 2003 by American Photo Magazine and in 2007 was awarded the Young Photographer Infinity Award by the International Center of Photography. McGinley’s models are usually nude, though never sexualized.
Much has been made of reckless youth as the binding principal that holds all of McGinley’s surprisingly disparate projects together — the early snapshot work, the road trip photographs, his work with human and animal models, his studio black and whites, his concert photography and his vast YEARBOOK endeavor, although a recent body of work, revolving around mirrored self-portraits, opens up his subjects to include models of all ages. A 2014 article in GQ referred to McGinley as “the most important photographer in America.”
McGinley has been the subject of a dozen solo museum exhibitions including those at the Whitney Museum of American Art and PS1 in New York City, GAMeC in Bergamo, MUSAC in León, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, FOAM in Amsterdam and the Kunsthalle Vienna. Recent group appearances include the Fondazione Prada, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Artspace in Sydney and Seoul’s Daelim Museum. His work is represented in numerous public collections including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the ICA Miami, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.