Photography Marie Tomanova.

'young americans' is a document of new york's youth

Photographer Marie Tomanova's new book has an introduction by her hero Ryan McGinley.

by Jack Sunnucks
28 March 2019, 7:42pm

Photography Marie Tomanova.

Last time i-D caught up with photographer Marie Tomanova, she’d just put on her first solo show at New York’s Czech Institute. Young Americans chronicled the kids she’d met here since she moved to the city from the Czech Republic, via North Carolina, inspired by a Ryan McGinley photo she saw online. Now, Tomanova has a new book out, with a foreword from none other than McGinley himself. “He actually told me that I should do a book, which was another great inspiration,” she says of meeting her hero. “He’s an amazing, generous person!” On Wednesday, Tomanova sold out at her opening at Dashwood books within an hour, but fear not, you can order a copy from her here. She told i-D all about her incredible year.

How did Ryan come to write the preface for the book?
I was doing a book, which was already my dream, and then not even daring to hope that my hero photographer would write the introduction for it. I just couldn't believe it. And what is really beautiful and liberating about all of this for me, and I hope is going to be inspirational for other people, is that even your biggest dreams, even the dreams that you don't dare dreaming about, they can happen.

Looking back eight years ago, if somebody would tell me that this will be happening I would just be like, "Whoa, no way." I saw Ryan's work when I was in North Carolina in 2011, I saw it online somehow it just popped [up]. And I fell in love. And I looked him up, and I looked at his work, and I really love all the kids running in the fields, climbing trees, and all of that. It really resonated with me. And I decided that the next year, as an au pair, I'm gonna move to New York, so I can actually meet Ryan. Which didn't happen for years, because I was just so shy.


This follows your brilliant show at the Czech Institute.
Except in the show, so we had 14 prints on the wall, and then there was a huge projection of photos that went on a loop, and there were close to 300 portraits… it was really huge. And since they were so close up, it looked great. Because there were these huge heads staring at you, and it was all about the eyes. It was wonderful.

After that came the challenge of how to put this into a book — it can't be that big! So it was a great learning process. And I think, actually looking at the book now, really having it in my hand, I think it looks great. And I'm very happy with it.

How do you find the people you photograph?
I love to just walk through the city and see beautiful people. Because you see them every day. Every day there's a person and I walk and I'm like, "Oh, I would like to take a portrait of them." There are just interesting people in the city who are into fashion, who are not scared to look different, or they're just them.


You said you recently went to the Czech Republic for the first time in eight years.
And that's when I realized how lucky I am, and how extremely grateful and just really happy I am that I live in New York City. Because you have some cool and interesting looking people in the Czech Republic, but it's nothing like New York. I didn't actually shoot many young people when I was back there, I actually started to do a whole other body of work, which is more of landscapes and portraits of older people. And a little bit of a whole different vibe. Because New York is a very unique place in this. And the youth culture is very strong in New York. Very creative, diverse, driven, unique. They have a voice.


Do you remember when you and Ryan first met?
But I think at one point when I had the show Young American, I felt like I really wanted him to see my work. So I kind of got the courage, and we went to see Ryan's opening of Mirror Mirror, which happened last summer. It actually opened a day after my show opened. So I went, and said “Hi” to him, and invited him to come see the show. And he actually did. And he came, he biked from Chinatown all the way to the Upper East Side.

He sat with me for almost two hours chatting, looking at the projection a couple times, taking photos. And we're just talking about people he knew in the pictures, because we actually photographed a bunch of similar people. It was a magical moment for me to just sit there with Ryan and get advice, and he actually told me that I should do a book, which was another great inspiration. He’s an amazing, generous person. And became even bigger inspiration at that moment for me.

Young Americans
Ryan McGinley
Marie Tomanova