Ryan McGinley Whistles for the Wind

Whistle For The Wind is the first major monograph chronicling the career of 35-year-old photographer, Ryan McGinley, over its entirety of twelve years. The book also features filmmaker Gus Van Sant who collaborates with McGinley in an interview that renders their views on youth, hedonism and the art of fast living.
Whistle For The Wind is the first major monograph chronicling the career of 35-year-old photographer, Ryan McGinley, over its entirety of twelve years. McGinley is the youngest artist ever to be granted a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, an achievement that may lead to status recognition of McGinley as a generation defining photographer.

In Whistle For The Wind, McGinley’s work is considered by three prominent figures: filmmaker Gus Van Sant; novelist and critic, Chris Klaus; and writer, artist and activist, John Kelsey. Each offers unique perspective and rich insight on the creative process of McGinley’s work, a New Jersey native who initially began as a documentarian of downtown New York, producing dark images of sex and graffiti. His earlier work can be juxtaposed with his photography book entitled Moonmilk (2009), a series of colour photographs depicting nudes shot in caves across North America, commonly referred to as “Wild Caves,” a term that adheres to wild terrain, including some previously undocumented underground territory. Moonmilk indicates McGinley’s departure from the dark graffiti-inked images of New York captured by this New Jersey native through his amateur snapshots, and signals the arrival of an innovative artist representing a new generation.

Whistle For The Wind is the idea of “seeing where the road takes you and running away from home,” said McGinley to Isabel Wilkinson of the Daily Beast. It re-defines the great, American road trip as a reckless squander of frolic and dreamlike images rooted in nature. McGinley describes his creative process as a constant shifting and evolving compilation of photographs, developed through a method of “planning everything and planning for everything to go wrong.” Recalling his interview with Philip Gefter of the New York Times in 2007, McGinley states that his photography is “…a celebration of life, fun and the beautiful … [it is] … a world that doesn’t exist. A fantasy. Freedom is real. There are no rules. The life I wish I was living.”

The youthful, exuberant subjects of McGinley’s work embody a sense of freedom and lightheartedness; it is unlike the work of precedent photographers who had chosen to portray the same thematic veil. His subjects are not troubled, or on the verge of a nervous breakdown; they are running through meadows, swimming, loving, free falling off cliffs or taking a break from life. Perhaps, McGinley is suggesting that this is what living should feel like. The carefree energy that emanates from Whistle For The Wind is unique for its genre; honest, lively and submerged in colour.

AnotherMag defines the new book as a medley of “youth, hedonism and unconventional beauty”, and compares it to the likeness of director Gus Van Sant. Naturally, the two talents paired up to discuss the appeal of using youthful subjects, photography, filmmaking and living fast in New York. Their interview was recorded and excerpts have been printed in his new book – you can find the full version online on Ryan McGinley’s personal website.

On the process of casting models…
RM: … Casting is such a big part of my process … when I travel and do larger trips, I’ll take the people who I liked the best, and those people tend to be people who have never been really photographed before … It’s easier for me to pull emotions out of them, rather than someone who is professional where they are offering you emotions.

On his creative process…
RM: … half the battle is arriving and being there … it can go in so many different directions … It never ends up where I started with the original idea … It’s exciting for me to find that and then just work through it. My work is about repetition–to make a photograph, it’s about doing a scene, a repetitious act until people can’t do it anymore, until they’re tired … My shoots are so active that it really is a performance if you watch it happening.

On his future plans for photography…
RM: … youth is what I’m most interested in because it’s a time in your life when there’s so many possibilities and so much confusion and anger and optimism and it’s all wrapped up in one. It’s also wrapped up in beauty. There is a period where you’re the most beautiful, and it’s all those aspects together that I think are interesting.

This article was originally published on 23 August 2012 by The Genteel. Image of Dakota Hair (2004).