Back in the 90s Ryan McGinley hit the big-time as the youngest photographer to exhibit at the Whitney in New York with his series 'The Kids Are Alright', which showed uncompromising images of downtown living. Following his steep rise to fame McGinley branched out to photographing his achingly cool and skinny friends scantily clad, frolicking, smoking and pashing their way through summer road-trips. Last year, McGinley produced his 'Animals' series, which, with their displaced birds, reptiles and little furry mammals and nudes, merged humour and intimacy.
Birds are wild and unpredictable creatures, very beautiful, but at the same time you always have a little sense of the danger because they are so much larger and more powerful than you might think
With direct reference to 'Animals', McGinley photographed the eco-friendly label Edun's latest campaign, starring Grace Bol, Miles McMillan and Dazed's July covergirl, Zen Sevastyanova. Using bold backgrounds and minimal staging the models interact with birds of prey: a spectacled own, a scoop owl, a barn owl, an eagle owl and a peregrine falcon, capturing the unexpected flashes of intimate moments. Amongst the menagerie are printed dresses, fair-isle cardigans, tartan jackets and soft tailoring. New York-based McGinley spoke to Dazed Digital about his work, the animals and his city.
Dazed Digital: What was it like working with the birds?
Ryan McGinley: Birds are wild and unpredictable creatures, very beautiful, but at the same time you always have a little sense of the danger because they are so much larger and more powerful than you might think. Occasionally they would fly away from the set and we would all just have to be patient and wait for them to return to work.
DD: The photographs are intimate but with a sense of humour. How did you manage this?
Ryan McGinley: I'm very happy to hear you say that. That mix of intimacy and an ability to express an emotion – if it is happiness, sadness or wonder – is something I want for in nearly every image I make. I just try and speak to my models like real people, ask them about their lives. And, have fun while we make pictures together.
DD: Your commercial work has pushed the boundary between art and commerce, especially considering the Edun photographs in the context of your 'Animals' series. How do you find the balance?
Ryan McGinley: Everything I do feeds everything else. I'm simply interested in creativity on every level. Of course, the artwork informs what I do commercially; inspiring my collaborators and, mostly on a technical level, I learn amazing things from the commercial work that I bring over to the artwork.
DD: Do you think NYC has affected your work?
Ryan McGinley: Absolutely. I first came to New York as a teenager, skating the city with my friends. I have always been in love with New York – its energy and vibrancy informs everything I do no matter where in the world I am doing it.