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BY ANY MEASURE, Lauren Greenfield enjoyed a privileged background. Her parents taught at UCLA. She grew up in Venice and attended a private high school in Santa Monica. And yet she felt poor when her friends received BMWs, Porsches, and Volvos for their sweet sixteens and she didn’t. “Even though I had everything I needed, I still felt like I didn’t have enough,” Greenfield says. “I still wanted more and felt less-than compared to the wealthy consumption I was seeing at school.”

That desire for more, for the trappings of affluence, became an overarching theme of her career as a photographer. Greenfield has spent the past 25 years documenting people of all ages and backgrounds striving to convey great wealth. She recently compiled 650 images in Generation Wealth, an insightful study of materialism and vanity. “There are billionaires and white-collar criminals, but a lot of the people in the work are not rich, and that’s kind of the point. It’s about the influence of affluence, and the aspiration to be wealthy. So even though some of them might look rich, they might be fighting like hell to be there.”