In the beginning, Ryan McGInley was an outsider. He used his band of beautiful friends to create photographs—rarely not naked but never quite sexy—that he now calls "evidence of fun." But in the past decade, McGinley's vision has evolved and expanded into a tidal wave of influence, affecting the look of art, advertising, music videos, film, even Instagram—and making him arguably the most important photographer in America. So why are so many of us just learning his name?
The plan is to sit in as he shoots nudes. These girls, like the tens of models (male and female) that Ryan McGinley shoots in his studio each week, have been scouted. Phoebe, one of his many assistants, hits the streets in search of faces, hanging around downtown, roaming the campuses of art schools. She knows what he likes.
It doesn't seem to occur to anybody that the models might be made uncomfortable by my presence. McGinley, 36, one of the world's most successful and omnipresent photographers, projects the authority of a confident, truant teenager. Whereas many people would at least pay lip service to the potential problems a reporter might pose (naked young people, a stranger taking notes), McGinley doesn't bother. The effect of this assumptive apathy is that he always gets what he wants.