Paul Greenfield MFA, ARPS

Ryan McGinley (1977)

Ryan McGinley is an American photographer living in New York City. McGinley began making photographs in 1998. In 2003, at the age of 25, he was one of the youngest artists to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was also named Photographer of the Year in 2003 by American Photo Magazine. In 2007, McGinley was awarded the Young Photographer Infinity Award by the International Center of Photography. In 2009, he was honored at The Young Collectors Council's Artists Ball at the Guggenheim Museum. A 2014 GQ article declared McGinley, "the most important photographer in America."

Early life and education

McGinley was born in Ramsey, New Jersey, and is the youngest of eight children. From an early age, his peers and mentors were skateboarders, graffiti artists, musicians, and artists that were considered to be on the fringes of society. As a teenager, McGinley was a snowboard instructor at Campgaw Mountain, NJ, and competed in the east coast amateur circuits from 1992–to 1995. He enrolled as a graphic design student at Parsons School of Design in New York in 1997. In 1998, he moved to the East Village and covered the walls of his apartment with Polaroid pictures of everyone who visited him there.


As a student at Parsons, McGinley began experimenting with photography. In 1999, he put these early images together in a handmade, self-published book called The Kids Are Alright, titled after a film about The Who. McGinley had his first public exhibition in 2000 at 420 West Broadway in Manhattan in a DIY opening. One copy of The Kids are Alright was given to scholar and curator Sylvia Wolf, who later organized McGinley's solo exhibition at the Whitney. In an essay about McGinley, Wolf wrote, "The skateboarders, musicians, graffiti artists and gay people in Mr. McGinley's early work 'know what it means to be photographed. His subjects are performing for the camera and exploring themselves with an acute self-awareness that is decidedly contemporary. They are savvy about visual culture, and acutely aware of how identity can be not only communicated but created. They are willing collaborators." While he was a student at Parsons, McGinley was also the acting photo editor at Vice Magazine from 2000–to 2002.
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