Self Reflection

Self Reflection

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Self Reflection

Photographer Ryan McGinley's newest exhibition 'Mirror, Mirror' intimately captures and questions self-reflection in the age of social media.

Photographer Ryan McGinley's newest exhibition 'Mirror, Mirror' intimately captures and questions self-reflection in the age of social media.

Text: Devin Barrett

This interview appears in the pages of V114. Order your copy at today!

For his new exhibition and book Mirror, Mirror photographer Ryan McGinley challenged 200 close friends to take self-portraits using a specific list of instructions written by McGinley himself. Each of the subjects, including family, college friends, brothers-in-law, moms, aunts, former models, and ex-boyfriends, captured themselves nude in their homes, surrounded by mirrors arranged by the artist’s team (McGinley was not present). “I’ve always been fascinated by projects in which the artist conceives of the idea and provides instructions, but the work is executed by others,” he explains. “I wanted to empower the subjects, while stripping my photography down to its conceptual roots. I felt like the models were still working within my photographic language and the themes I have explored for years—nudity, sexuality, gender, beauty, and fantasy.” Shot in a variety of angles and vantage points, the portraits reflect the limitless and subjective exercise of self-reflection in the social media age—while evoking the honesty and intimacy for which the photographer is known. (Subjects had to shoot five rolls of film within an hour, eliminating the ability to self-edit.)

McGinley’s wide-ranging inspirations for the project included “the mirrored room in Bruce Lee’s movie Enter the Dragon, trying on clothes in a fitting room with multiple mirrors, FaceTime, make-up tutorials, profile pictures on dating apps, thirst traps, and Versailles’s iconic Hall of Mirrors,” he says. But, he adds, he encourages future participants to make it their own. “The best part of this exercise is that anyone can carry it out, and become part of this project.”

Here, the artist shares a selection of instructions exclusively for V. Get snapping.


– Appear to be caught in the middle of taking a step.

– Pretend you're paparazzi on one side of the mirror and a celebrity on the other. Shoot multiple frames as you walk across your room and block your face from the camera.

– Say to your reflection, "If you're cool with me, I'm cool with you." Then look at yourself and shoot multiple frames saying, "You talking to me?"

– Pretend you're a wedding photographer and tell yourself to put your chin down.

Mirror, Mirror is currently open at Team Gallery, NYC through September 29 with a book to follow published by Rizzoli.




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