A week ago, on a balmy Sunday evening in downtown Manhattan, a photography show shut down an entire city block. It was the New York edition of Ryan McGinley's Yearbook installation at Team Gallery, where vivid and hedonistic portraits of beautiful youngsters have been wallpapered to every surface in the gallery. I saw a similar exhibition of McGinley's Yearbook pictures in San Francisco last fall, but this new show takes the installation to an even more elaborate and all-encompassing level, coating every surface of the gallery in glossy, chromatic youth-beauty, so that not an inch of white wall remains. The photos, shot over the last 5 years in McGinley's Chinatown studio, picture sweethearts of the downtown art scene, and everyone looks like they're having fun. The air is getting colder, so back-to-school vibes are strong, and this seems like the perfect time to be looking at a photo series called Yearbook. VICE asked Ryan a few questions to find out more.
VICE: How many photos are in the exhibition?
Ryan McGinley: The show has over 700 photographs stuck on the walls. Most people have two different photos from their studio shoot.
How many years did it take you to shoot all the portraits for Yearbook?
The project has taken five years. I’ve shot people's portraits ever month for it in my Chinatown studio in NYC since 2009.
Where did the idea to totally cover the gallery walls come from?
I’ve always loved how street advertisements in NYC are wheat-pasted on top of each other. I talked with a guy late one night who was doing it, and he explained the process to me.
Who are the people in the photographs?
Everyone I shoot is part of downtown's creative community—painters, musicians, dancers, writers, sculptors, photographers. Those are the people who understand what I do and are excited to pose nude for me.
What’s a typical studio shoot like?
I really love to have people lie on the floor and slowly move around; there is something so intimate about being on the ground together. Then we pick up the pace, and the model gets to choose three songs they love to jam out to and we dance. Sometimes we break out the mini trampoline and jump around in circles on it. I’ve also got a treadmill that we’ve cut the guardrails off of, and people run on that. I love collecting old beat -p chairs that get thrown out from the streets of Chinatown. I’ve got a collection of them that models sit on; they’ve got character.
Quite a lot of people have tattoos. Do you have a favorite one?
This Swedish guy Charlie has a stick and poke above his pubic hair that says “You ARE NO: 1” which also can be read as “YOU ARE NO ONE” I think it’s funny that if someone were hooking up with him they’d have to contend with that thought.
How long did the show take to install?
It took us ten days inside Team Gallery with eight installers sticking up pictures each day. We had three scaffoldings going at once. Doing the ceiling was the hardest part. It felt a bit like the Sistine Chapel.
How was the opening for you?
I was happy we didn’t get shut down by the cops like last time. This time we got permission from the city to shut down the street, and it was approached in a more orderly fashion. We had 3,000 people come over three hours, and everyone was able to come into the gallery and see the show. I was really happy. It was fun to watch models try to find their photos and see their reactions.
Ryan McGinley's Yearbook will remain on view at Team Gallery through October 12, 2014.