Lauren Greenfield; Photographic Signs Of Our Times Page 2

Always part of her culture, Greenfield, now 38, married and with a 5-year-old son, is a toned-down version of our time. Attractive and particularly bright she has a natural capacity for understanding the events that have created pop culture, as well as the implications.

"All girls are affected," she says, "though some have other prevailing influences in their life. But even those who react and say they don't care are still affected."

With a new level of understanding, Greenfield looks back over her career that began in 1991 when she was chosen out of 200 applicants to intern at National Geographic.

"I actually wasn't even working as a photographer at that time and didn't think it would be a very interesting job," she admits. "I attended Harvard University but there were no courses in photojournalism and I majored in visual studies. When I went to National Geographic it was like waking up in heaven. I loved the photographers and they were so generous in their teaching and monitoring of me. I learned to work with transparency film and I saw a place where photographers were being real journalists, going out and finding a story and the writers were following them. It opened up a world of storytelling in photography."

Greenfield's own background was a privileged one. At the age of 14 her mother, a college professor, took her to the Sorbonne for a three-month sabbatical. She fell in love with France and remained for the entire school year, returning summers to visit with the French aristocratic family with whom she had lived and formed a bond. At the age of 21 she photographed a project about the French aristocracy and their social rituals. She had a few shows of the work but was sure that would be her swan song in photography.

Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain.

In her first book, Fast Forward, published in 1992 and again in 1995, Greenfield found her own way of seeing the world. Living in Los Angeles, she focused on the theme of growing up in a fast society where reality was based in the precocious worship of Hollywood idols and a society rampant in sexuality set by movies and television. It was a long distance from the earlier themes of Mayan Indians and French aristocracy but her need to record the world as it changed in our time burned within Greenfield. It was evocative and she became intrigued with the daily life of young children living in Hollywood's fantasy lifestyle.

"When I was starting out as a young photographer all we thought about was Life magazine, Time magazine, and National Geographic. As a photographer today I have to be creative about my outlets," she says. "I think about very different outlets now, the most satisfying being books, museum shows, and the Internet. My website, Girl Culture.com, (the book now in its third printing) has had over two million hits a year and the cool thing about that is young people are really communicating with me, talking about how the culture has affected them. They are taking it very personally and I get a ton of e-mails.

"The comment books at the galleries read like a diary, ultimately about how girls have related to the show and how it has affected them. Girls hunger to tell their stories and they trust me."

A member of Agency VII, based in Paris, Greenfield is the only member who is not a war photographer. Her work is in numerous museums and collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the International Center or Photography, and the Hallmark Collection. She currently resides in Venice, California.

Though sad, the problems of anorexia or obesity are still a theme that concerns Greenfield and she is currently finishing her first movie, an HBO documentary about eating disorders. "Thin," a part of the "America Undercover" series, is due to be aired in 2006.

This writer has a few years (to be sure) on Greenfield but would agree that it is hard not to relate to the dilemma of teen-age trendsetters who define our troubling times. She has definitely touched a chord.

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