Lauren Greenfield (born 1966) is an American artist, documentary photographer, and documentary filmmaker. She has published four photographic monographs, directed four documentary features, produced four traveling exhibitions, and published in magazines throughout the world.
Greenfield graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual and environmental studies. While an undergraduate, she studied overseas in several countries with the International Honors Program, a division of SIT Study Abroad. Her senior thesis photography project on the French aristocracy was called "Survivors of the French Revolution".
Greenfield's undergraduate thesis helped kick start her career as an intern for National Geographic Magazine. A subsequent grant from National Geographic provided financial support toward her debut monograph, "Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood" (Knopf 1997). Five years after the release of "Fast Forward", Greenfield produced a second major body of work about the self-esteem crisis amongst American women, entitled "Girl Culture".
From Amazon's website:
Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth is both a retrospective and an investigation into the subject of wealth over the last twenty-five years. Greenfield has traveled the world - from Los Angeles to Moscow, Dubai to China - bearing witness to the global boom-and-bust economy and documenting its complicated consequences. Provoking serious reflection, this book is not about the rich, but about the desire to be wealthy, at any cost.
FROM MY DISSERTATION
In 2017 Lauren Greenfield published her monograph, Generation Wealth, which documented, over twenty-five years, the rich and their desire to be wealthy. In the section devoted to ‘time-share-king’ David Siegel, and his wife Jackie, (Greenfield 2017, p294) she describes and photographs the Siegels, en famille, with their eight children, each of whom had their own nanny, in their quest to build a 90,000 sq. ft home in Florida, USA: their home at the time was 26,000 sq. ft.
Previously in 2012, Greenfield had published a film, (using the same name Generation Wealth), about the family, who had at that stage had almost been rendered bankrupt after the 2008 financial crash. Both film and book show the endless pursuit of wealth as an obsession.
Examining Figure 12 (page 19) from a semiotic viewpoint, it is clear that the limit frame has been used by the photographer to include the mirror and its reflection of the gold chair, and also the gold curtains. Lauren Greenfield wants the viewer to focus on the abundance of wealth on display – indicating her role as an outsider in the production of the image. David Seigel seems to be deliberately showing his gold watch rather than placing his hand on his wife’s waist. He makes no attempt to hide his physique whereas his wife poses to flatter herself.
It is not difficult to imagine young people taking offence at David Seigel’s lifestyle, a 74-year-old baby-boomer whose views on debt are summarised in an interview with (Greenfield 2017, p319)
‘I paid cash for the house, and at some point, I put a mortgage on it … Why have an asset that doesn’t have a mortgage ...?’
And yet his quest for more treasure seems problematic,
‘Nothing makes me happy these days. … Jackie’s kind of like having another child. She knows we need to cut back … Can’t have one dog, has to have a dozen. Can’t have one child, has to have seven’
Figure 13 (page 21) shows his 40-year-old wife, Jackie, with her friends and their Versace handbags: Lauren Greenfield was clearly not impressed.
Generation Wealth is a look at how the American dream has changed, and really how we've all changed with it,’ says Greenfield. ‘We've gone from values of hard work and frugality and discretion, the values of my parents' generation, to a culture that prizes bling and celebrity and narcissism.’
Both images demonstrate a desire for, and a display of, material wealth which for some viewers can seem repugnant and for others can create feelings of envy and a desire to become rich. Neither of these traits is necessarily age related.
Unlike any of the other photographers cited in this essay, Lauren Greenfield’s work on this project deliberately communicates her opinions on the lifestyle of her subjects showing them in a light many people would find unfavourable. However, some of the viewers might prefer to form their own judgements and could see this work as red-top journalism. This style of journalism is not ambiguous, it dramatizes the message to the reader.