Lauren Greenfield recently stopped at Target with her 10-year-old son. The idea was to grab a coffee and use the restroom. Before she knew it, she had a cart full of stuff, including a $50 jar of anti-aging face cream. Her son made her put it back.
Greenfield tells the story while sitting on a couch inside the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A. days before the opening of her solo show, “Generation Wealth,” which runs through Aug. 13. She wears studious black-framed glasses, a black jacket and a breezy lavender blouse, looking very much out of step with the gold-plated luxury in the frames around her.
Greenfield has devoted the last 25 years to documenting the hollow promise of rampant consumer culture and what she calls “the influence of affluence.” The point of her Target anecdote: If someone like her still falls prey to the carefully engineered impulse to buy, buy, buy, imagine how vulnerable the rest of us are.
“I’ve always been inspired by my own urges,” says Greenfield, sipping on a large coffee. “If you go into a department store, you’re going to want stuff. I hope people come to this exhibit and see themselves. I hope they don’t say, ‘Who are these people?’ ”
The people in the 195 prints on display represent seemingly every rung on the socio-economic ladder. They are strippers in Magic City, a club in Atlanta; teens getting a nose job in Hollywood; A-list celebrities partying in Beverly Hills; 6-year-old beauty pageant stars in Oxnard; kids doing sexy dances at fat camp in the Catskills; the new rich in China and Russia; families across the U.S. and Ireland that lost everything in the financial crash of 2008; and much more.