Ryan McGinley Challenges Parsons Class of 2014 to Find Their Own Quest

by Alexandra Manikas

A still of Ryan McGinley's commencement speech for the 2014 graduating class of Parsons The New School for Design

Ryan McGinley is a photographer who appreciates the value of hard work. He recently gave the 2014 commencement address for the graduating class of Parsons The New School for Design, and it was littered with practical advice, laughter-inducing quips and inspiring anecdotes. He told them, "Sometimes you have to do things in life that you are afraid of." He believes instead of being scared of new things, you should approach them from a direction that you are comfortable with and to rely on your skill set with confidence. He notes that sometimes the best path isn't a straight line but is rather circuitous—sometimes you have to see all the sights before you know which direction you want to go in. 

McGinley was never even a photography major in school, but he says, "When I got that first camera, I got my wings. I started to relate to the world in a new way. It gave me permission to ask." McGinley views his photographic work as a culmination of all his interests. He suggests, "Find something to be obsessed with, and then obsess over it. Don't compete—find what's uniquely yours. Take your experience of life…mix it all together and create an artistic world that we can all enter into." 

Embracing uniqueness and your own individual background is a vein that runs strongly throughout McGinley's speech- to recognize your differences and to use them to your advantage. He says, "Be busy. Seek and find a way to do what it is you want to do. Identify what that thing is and do it. Don't stand around too long having conversations about it. Do it." He warns against spending too much time in your head, or talking yourself out of your ideas. If it's important to you, find a way to make it work. Sometimes you have to keep throwing yourself at the wall until you find your break-through. 

McGinley also advises to be open to opportunities: "Say yes to almost everything, and try new things. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't be afraid to work hard. …If you are working hard, really hard, opportunity will come. And when it does, you better be ready for it with your camera in hand." 

Watch the whole speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvrWVsPXxE0



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