Selfies are usually accompanied by an automatic groan. Dismissed as superficial and vapid, selfie-taking is often seen as too close to Narcissus staring adoringly at his reflection for comfort. However, for marginalized people, selfies can be a way to create visibility where there is none in dominant, mainstream culture. Ryan McGinley’s current show Mirror, Mirror at team (gallery, inc.) explores the potential power and agency in taking one’s own photograph.
Rather than snapping the photos himself, as he has his entire career, McGinley turned the cameras over to his chosen subjects, along with twenty mirrors, film and instructions. While some of the subjects like club kid, model and actress Sophia Lamar, as well as Printed Matter’s late director Shannon Michael Cane are recognizable, most are not, which refreshingly universalizes McGinley’s project. Even more, the subjects, who all pose nude, vary in age, race, gender, sexual identity and body type, creating a celebration of difference without the cloying feel-good mentality of clickbait. Instead, lined up on the gallery walls, the series echoes the intimacy of McGinley’s early 2000s work in grimy Downtown NYC, while also disrupting the typically problematic objectification inherent in photography by allowing the sitter to fashion their own representation.
It’s also perfect for some good old fashioned GIF art criticism so “read” on: