Lauren Greenfield, “Generation Wealth”
The International Center for Photography, NYC
September 20, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Documentary filmmaker and photojournalist Lauren Greenfield’s Generation Wealth is a socioculturally pertinent retrospective currently on view at The International Center for Photography. The exhibit features roughly 200 photographs, interviews, and documentary films chronicling the impossible pursuit of wealth, beauty, and celebrity amongst the world’s elite. Generation Wealth is Greenfield’s second major show at The International Center for Photography, her first being Fast Forward, which debuted in 1997. As described by Juliet Schor, sociologist and economist who wrote the forward to Phaidon’s Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth, Greenfield’s thesis stays relevant as she “has captured a singular era in modern history… a period of rampant materialism and wealth obsession.”
Greenfield graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with majors in Visual and Environmental Studies, which later inspired her to work for National Geographic, the magazine which partially funded her first monograph Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood. Fast Forward, published by Knopf in 1997, reveals a pictorial representation of Los Angeles’ financial stratification amongst its suburban teenagers. Greenfield’s second monograph came in the form of 2002’s Girl Culture, which even further followed America’s obsession with the cult of celebrity.
Greenfield’s focus throughout the exhibition is singular, beginning with Fast Forward and culminating in clips from her 2015 film Lifestyles of China’s New Rich. She is consistent in examining millennial culture and the subsequent need to falsely self-actualize through superficial factors. The exhibit is filled with raw, 35mm photographs of young girls and women accompanied by fragments from interviews conducted by Greenfield. Generation Wealth is aflush with images of 15-year-old girls squeezing themselves into push-up bras, gaudy Disney makeovers, frowning anorexia patients, and bloody macro shots of Botox surgeries and breast augmentations. Greenfield leaves nothing to the imagination as she debunks fairy-tale standards and America’s obsession with consumer culture.
“I’ve been interested in the psychology behind our desire to acquire,” Greenfield explains of her retrospective, “Keeping up with the Joneses has become Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” She waxes political in her artist statement, considering the particularly rampant fixation with luxury brands in formerly communist countries like Russia and China, and also on the election of Donald Trump, “who may be the apotheosis of ‘Generation Wealth.’” Indeed, Greenfield’s Generation Wealth remains extant as issues regarding wealth allocation, the hypersexualization of children and young adults, and obsession with the cult of celebrity become more crucial in defining the world’s sociopolitical values.
Lauren Greenfield’s Generation Wealth is on display at The International Center for Photography on 250 Bowery until January 7th, 2018.