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Ryan McGinley Ocean Rain
"Ocean Rain"Photography by Ryan McGinley

Ryan McGinley’s portraits of American youth

We pulled the NY photographer’s best water photos in celebration of Ocean Day

At 21 Ryan McGinley began shooting his mostly-nude friends in New York. Four years later he was one of the youngest photographers to show solo at the Whitney Museum. Since those initial documentary snapshots of his everyday life, the New Jersey-born photographer's work has taken to 'construction' over 'candid'. Born more from impatience than aesthetic, he began to set up scenarios, swapping the spontaneous for the staged. He told the New York Times in 2007: "I got to the point where I couldn’t wait for the pictures to happen anymore. I was wasting time, and so I started making pictures happen. It borders between being set up or really happening. There’s that fine line." Tracing a narrative through McGinley's work is inescapable, and yet, his images retain a sense of freedom that he has instilled in them since he developed the first roll of film featuring his mates starkers. From portraits of American youth running through a field, on the streets and, notably, swimming through the water, to celebrate Ocean Day – the day we set aside to honour the Seven Seas – we rummaged through McGinley’s archive, where H20 provides the perfect backdrop to some of his most stunning work.