“Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?” Jules Verne’s sentiments about a journey to the center of the earth can, to some degree, be applied to Ryan McGinley’s photographing of it. McGinley’s latest collection of photographs, taken over the summer of 2009, sets his models against the backdrop of underground caves found in the depths of the United States– some never before explored or documented. The Book’s title, Moonmilk, refers to the drippy crystalline deposits found on these caves, which were once believed by some to have formed thanks to light from celestial bodies passing though the caves - a good description of what it seems like we see in these dazzling photographs. The journey was to no extent easy, as eight hour shoots in unexplored caves with little to no natural light might seem like the speculations of a lunatic indeed, though the photos prove the deed as more than worthwhile.
So does the world beneath us really look like a technicolor Maxfield Parrish painting come to life? Telling us where truth stops, McGinley used gels and clever lighting to add the otherworldly appearance of the “wild caves”. In this series, McGinley steps away from the snapshots his summer series are most commonly known for. These photos are as much about the model as the scenery, and lead the viewer to contemplate their relationship of each to one another.
Hailed by The New York Times as the best photobook of the past year, you can buy moonmilk here.