Act Natural

Words and Photographs by Ryan McGinley

Ryan McGinley has made a name for himself in the art world by capturing subjects in their element—or rather, the elements—presenting images that showcase the human spirit at its most authentic, entirely unabashed and uninhibited.

Since I was a teenage skater, we would always say “act natural” when we’d see a cop roll by. Nowadays, when my team is outdoors photographing someone nude and a park ranger cruises by, our model quickly hides, and I’ll tell my assistants, “act natural.” We always giggle after they roll by.


As a photographer, all I’ve ever wanted my subjects to be is natural. My job is to find that authentic moment where you feel their spirit—a person’s soul is natural. I’m searching for a picture without affectation or pretense, something that feels candid or off the cuff, or in simple words, “natural.” Ryan McGinley

This article appears in Volume 01: Neo-Natural of Atmos.