Ryan McGinley

Ryan McGinley

Work from Moonmilk.

“McGinley describes his work as a journey, and his photographs form a ʻtravel logʼ which captures his experiences across the American landscape. This particular adventure pushed his troupe to new levels of bravery, testing the participantsʼ fortitude and endurance in hazardous conditions. McGinley recalls, “there is something prehistoric about a cave that makes one feel comfort and impending doom all in one breath. Theair is often thick with dust, humidity and the smell of minerals while the ground is slick clay, or rubble that fell from the ceiling. It is slow going when burdened by the excessive amount of lighting options needed to pull off an 8-hour shoot. Most caves are no more than 50 degrees inside while some house ice stays intact all year round, making it a challenge to endure the long exposures and precarious setups necessary to shoot with such limited light.” 

McGinleyʼs goal is to explore, experiment, take risks. He works thoroughly, deeply and obsessively. He is curious and open, while remaining interested in very specific things. These new cave photographs demand that viewers accustomed to his previous work throw away everything they might have thought about McGinley — gone is the snapshot kid. As he puts it, “I wanted a challenge, so I decided to do the cave project because I needed to slow my film. Shooting these pictures was like directing theatre – I had to pay attention to every little movement.” 

Some of the inspiration for this work came from childhood adventure stories such as Mark Twainʼs Tom Sawyer and Jules Verneʼs Journey to the Centre of the Earth. McGinley also took cues from the illustrations to be found in childrenʼs books and even in the Bible stories, such as Jonah and the Whale, his mother read to him as a child. 

McGinley rejected working in commercial caves, focusing instead on what are commonly referred to as ʻWild Cavesʼ. Some of the terminology associated with explorers and other kinds of pioneers can be applied to McGinley and his work process: trailblazer, pathfinder, seeker, searcher, frontiersman, surveyor. For the cave photographs, McGinley plunged himself, his models and his crew into an awesome and impenetrable blackness and brought back evidence from the hidden realm – pictures from inside the earth.” – Alison Jacques Gallery

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