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Monday, April 7, 2008

Q&A: Ryan McGinley

Aric Chen quizzes Ryan McGinley on the his latest show, "I Know Where the Summer Goes," at Team gallery...

Your new show consists of photographs taken on a road trip you took last summer with a van load of models. It was your third such trip—but where'd you go this time and why?

We made photos in close to forty states in ninety days this time around. There were so many locations and landscapes that I loved it's hard to name them all. A few of my favorite landscapes were The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, Amboy Crater in California and the Grasslands, which is within The Badlands. I laughed every time we shot at indoor locations: roller-skating naked to hip-hop music pumping in the ghetto of Chicago, using a fog machine inside a supermarket at midnight (the refrigeration section kept the fog cool and low), waking up at 5 am to shoot nude bowling.

There's lots of nudity—in supermarkets, in bowling alleys, on the highway. How did the good people of America react?

I think it gives them something to talk about for the rest of their lives. It sort of feels like I've given them a gift. A story to tell at parties or holidays. I love the idea of some family driving down the highway and a bunch of naked kids streaking across it during the middle of the day. How bizarre must it be to witness that happening.

Was there any hanky-panky?

Once everyone gets naked together and then are naked every single day for months on end, sex appeal gets thrown out the window. We're together so much we become very family-oriented. It would kind of be like having sex with your brother or sister.

We hear the van was totaled. What happened?

Yeah man, the Volkswagen Eurovan that's in the picture from 2005—of all the kids on top of it with the black horse looking at them—is totally gone. Coley, one of the models, fell asleep at the wheel early in the morning. I was sleeping, and another person in the back was sleeping, so at one point we were all driving down the highway sleeping. Crazy, right? It wasn't Coley's fault. We had been driving far too long. It happened on a rural highway in North Carolina. One of those highways with bushes and grass in the middle of it. I woke up when the van had dipped down to the middle, mowing down bushes. Coley woke up and tried to pull the van back up onto the highway, but the incline was too steep and we launched into the air and flipped the van. I'm real strict about everyone buckling up every time we get in the car, so luckily no one was hurt. Just a few cuts and bruises. At the time I thought I was dead. I saw the white light, but it ended up being a big cloud of dust from the airbags. At that point in the trip we were traveling in two vans and everyone from the other van came to our rescue. Now we travel in a 15-passenger van with Chris, our professional driver.

Where are you going next?

I haven't decided yet. I'm starting to prepare for the next journey now. I like to look at pictures of landscapes that I think are beautiful and then figure out where they are. I spend a lot of time looking at pictures from all sorts of places: Google image search, Patagonia catalogs, camera annuals from every year since photography started, National Geographic, nudist publications, screengrabs from movies I like. I have lots of friends and friends of friends who lend us their summer houses. If you are reading this and know somewhere cool to shoot, or have a house we can stay at in the USA, please email me (studio@ryanmcginley.com) and let's hang out. We really rely on the kindness of strangers.

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