I remember blasting Jimi Hendrix when I made this photo," recalls the 34-year-old New Yorker Ryan McGinley of "Purple Beacon", shot this spring. Filling a 280cm x 180cm canvas, it has a cinematic scope, an epic that tells a story. Albeit a story with a Hendrix-appropriate haze.
"I like how the girls are watching the sun disappear into the horizon," prompts the photographer. "I imagined them stranded on an island signalling for help or maybe participating in a religious ritual."
In reality, that island was a remote beach on Lake Michigan – perhaps not the first place you'd think of regarding rescue missions or sacred rites. But, with a little manipulation, the scene certainly gains in drama. "I adjusted the colours to shift to a more lavender palette. I wanted it to look more surreal and psychedelic," says McGinley. That'll be the Hendrix experience, all right – and fits right in with the theme of his Wandering Comma series, of engulfment by colour.
"I wanted to create a fantasy world," he adds – and by doing so, he lets the viewer make up their own mind as to what's going on. His only worry? That "a boat or an airplane might pass by and think we actually were sending a distress signal". 1
Ryan McGinley: Wandering Comma is at Alison Jacques Gallery, London W1 (alisonjacquesgallery.com), to 22 December