You and My Friends 1 consists of a huge grid of individual photographic portraits of fans at concerts. Over the past four years, Ryan McGinley has photographed faces in the crowd at a number of large outdoor music festivals across the United States and in Europe. These recurring events run for two or three days and feature a relatively wide variety of artists. McGinley and the members of his crew — each of whom has been given explicit instruction — spend their days from noon until well past midnight attending performances, shooting the fans from myriad vantage points.
Many of the pictures are dominated by a single color, a result not of post-production editing but rather the stages’ differently colored lights. The vivid tones further the individual images’ strong emotional tenors, earnest and heartfelt, but never melodramatic. The calculated arrangement of the photographs allows the colors to interact with each other, leading the viewer’s eye up, down, and across the grid, which stretches across some twenty five feet of wall space — arranged as such, the effect is of a youthful sublime.
On display is McGinley’s own significant relationship to rock, specifically the experience of live music. His subjects are visibly entranced by the performances of their favorite bands, looking beyond the camera toward the stage, oftentimes altogether unaware of the artist. Though similar in their intensity, the individual expressions convey a wide variety of emotions, ranging from blissful to darkly contemplative. McGinley’s own fandom is apparent: he has no doubt found himself in such states of rapture. Since early adolescence, he has been very actively involved in the rituals of popular culture, chief among them the community forming at the core of concert attendance. You and My Friends 1 speaks to this sense of momentary collective friendship, absorbing and enfolding the viewer into the artist’s own constructed audience.