Thesis & Background
Lauren Greenfield was born in 1966 in Boston, Massachusetts but grew up in Los Angeles, California. While pursuing visual and environmental studies at Harvard University, Greenfield decided that her career would be in culture. Creating Fast Forward helped Greenfield to find her voice as a photographer. Fast Forward explores youth culture in Los Angeles and the many facets of life that they are exposed to. Luxury, body image, and fitting in are all themes present in this photo book and create unfamiliar and fascinating stories to the viewer. In an interview with the LA Times, Greenfield argued, "I don't think the kids are wrong for trying to survive in the culture we live in." Greenfield's work challenges viewers to think about how Los Angeles culture has conditioned her subjects to live the way they do.
Lauren Greenfield's style is forward and intimate. Her ability to conduct interviews and make photographs that produce stories of raw emotion and unvarnished truth makes her photo books, including Fast Forward, unique and refreshing.
Ashleigh, 13, with her friend and parents, Santa Monica
Lindsey at a Fourth of July party three days after her surgery, Calabasas
Jessica, 13, orders a nonalcoholic drink at a party, Beverly Hills, California
In Fast Forward, Lauren Greenfield writes, "I began by following my intuition, which I supplemented with more traditional journalistic research as I progressed." She used what she knew about her own experiences in high school and conveyed the themes of cars, money, and clothes into the photographs she created. The main point Greenfield focused on was the loss of innocence that high schoolers had from the gap in time between her generation and their generation. In her photographs, you can see how the title Fast Forward really comes into play. Girls as young as five are imitating their mothers in the bathroom and picking up on mannerisms that can only come from the generations before them.
Greenfield's style can be described as documentary candid. While some photos are entirely candid, others are posed with a more show-off look. All of her photographs are made to feel like the viewer knows the people in the photographs. Privacy is no more and boundaries are broken. Her photographs are made in bedrooms, bathrooms, proms, and parking lots. Greenfield shatters the boundary between public and private life and invites us to see and feel what it's like to be a child or a young adult in the 1990s.
In both my project and my book Greek Life, I also try to break the boundary between public and private life. I was inspired by Greenfield to take candid photos of students in their bathrooms, bedrooms, and to capture genuine moments that people have with each other. It's hard to be invisible and capture life happening around you. It's a natural tendency for people to smile at the camera and pose for photos. In Greek Life, I focused on what it looks like to be in a sorority. Like Greenfield, I used my intuition and previous knowledge, including stereotypes, of what Greek life is and how I can best capture it to show to people who are not familiar with it.
The most difficult part about this process has been getting into situations that Greenfield was in, finding subjects to spend time with, respecting privacy, and finding interesting settings in general to capture what Greenfield was able to capture. What worked well for me in terms of taking photos was to take photos of people who weren’t aware that I was taking photos or who didn’t care that I was taking photos. This included people who were friends of mine that are now used to my photo taking or people in bars that were drunk and were not phased by my camera. Getting into bars was difficult because having a DSLR isn’t subtle; many questions are asked like, “what is your intention for bringing your camera into [name] bar?” “Do you have permission to be taking photos here?” With an iPhone, there are no questions asked because you can do anything and everything with an iPhone. It is subtle and ordinary and no one knows their picture is being taken.
Jewishness played a role in my photographs because I believe that most of the people in my photos were Jewish. Jewish holidays like Purim, Motza’ei Shabbat, and Greek Life events including date parties, all involve a Jewish population and different aspects of what it means to be Jewish as a college student. Being a Jewish photographer and photographing other Jewish students, it was important to be cautious of how the representation of Jewish students looked to others. Greenfield is able to collapse the boundary between public and private identities. In my photographs, I attempt to do this by photographing my subjects in their homes or at private events, but most importantly, I do this by building trust with the subjects I interact with.
I’m not sure that I would call this project liberating. I actually felt very restricted to what and who I could photograph and what photo guidelines from Fast Forward I should be following. Trying to match Greenfield’s energy level in her photographs is difficult and capturing events that seemed relevant, interesting, and though provoking was also difficult. I am also very hard on myself when I take photographs, so letting go and allowing myself to take photos was my biggest challenge.
Taking photos for Greek Life was so rewarding. I loved working with color, flash, candid moments, and high energy. This project could have gone in so many directions. With more time, I could have explored different sororities on campus and their different personalities,