Self-Portrait by Ryan McGinley

Portrait of Ryan McGinley, blue stage lights in background
Untitled (Morrissey 1) / Ryan McGinley 2004–6 / Chromogenic print / Ann and Mel Schaffer Family Collection / © Ryan McGinley

Every Thursday evening, the National Portrait Gallery presents “Face-to-Face,” a talk about selected portraits on view in the gallery. As part of this regular series, Frank Goodyear, who is associate curator of photographs at NPG, discussed this self-portrait by photographer Ryan McGinley. The portrait, Untitled (Morrissey 1), has the English musician Morrissey in the background. The photograph is on display in the recently opened exhibition "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography."

Ryan McGinley’s contribution to “Feature Photography” includes a select group of photographs taken at several concerts headlined by Morrissey between 2004 and 2006. Capturing the varied expressions and moods of the fans in attendance, these portraits suggest the enthusiasm shared by many for this charismatic English musician. McGinley also has acknowledged his own admiration for Morrissey, especially in the way in which his music addresses pertinent issues for him and for many other young people.

In his artist statement, Ryan McGinley writes, “The idea behind this series was to capture the feeling from the perspective of a fan attending a Morrissey concert. The great thing about shooting him is that he’s so active. He knows about the drama and opera of performance. . . . All of my work is people performing or being active in front of the camera, so taking pictures of Morrissey made perfect sense.”

As in other series about youth culture that he has completed, McGinley is both an observer and a participant at these concerts. In crafting the final prints, he experiments with size, exposure, and tonality to fashion images that convey the exhilaration and beauty of a captivated audience. In 2007 the International Center of Photography awarded McGinley the prestigious Infinity Award for a young photographer. For the past decade, he has been a regular contributor to a variety of magazines, including Vice, Index, and the New York Times Magazine.

>> Listen to Frank Goodyear’s Face-to-Face talk on Ryan McGinley (17:31)

To view more works by Ryan McGinley and the other artists featured in "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography," be sure to see the online exhibition. McGinley's portrait of Michael Phelps has also been on display at NPG, and is part of the museum's collections. 

The next Face-to-Face talk is this Thursday, January 22, when Curator of Painting and Sculpture Brandon Fortune speaks about the portrait Adelyn, Ash Wednesday, New Orleans, Louisiana, by Alec Soth in the exhibition "Portraiture Now: Feature Photography."  The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.  Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.

Frank Goodyear at his talk, standing next to Ryan McGinely portrait