With a van and its trailer filled with an energetic brood of young adults, Ryan McGinley sets off into the untamed US wilderness. His goal is broad, but remains dedicated to presenting an unabashed desire for freedom; what one might refer to as a youthful vision of the American Dream.
Each rest stop on their trek across the heartland is both spontaneous and premeditated. A location is determined, an idea presented, and the models are let loose. McGinley is the director – he lets his models act but keeps them under control. He knows what he wants and will take his time until the moment blossoms and the camera captures.
Born in New Jersey in 1977, McGinley grew up with the contemptuous ideologies of his on-the-street counterparts – those that partook in crass and innocent behaviour while identifying the rebellious and good-natured kids expressing their own cultural idiosyncrasies. The result is an image that captures the moment, the action, of rebellion rather than the result or the moral of the story.
His photos are often mid-action, a blurred moment creating a sense of dynamism that allows the viewer to jump into the photo themselves and take part in its story. Even the personal, close-up portraits of McGinley’s innocent subjects provide a connection. Whether collapsed on a floor in a moment of tranquility, standing in an elevator headed to a prospective destination, perched just before a leap, or tangled in the forest with another human, they are in preparation for the next moment, not concerned with the before nor what will soon transpire. Like setting off a firecracker, the millisecond captured before the explosion is essential to the exhilaration that follows.
Though spontaneity is essential, the spark originates a broader idea and McGinley’s scenes derive from a desire for capturing the natural energy of youth. Parallel to this vision is the timelessness of these kids, prescribing a photographic moniker of presenting images that transcend space and time and present a culture. In McGinley’s case: the culture of naïve liberty.