Taken out of context, a photograph by Lauren Greenfield could be mistaken for an artful snapshot on TMZ or Star Magazine, documenting the over-the-top glitz and glamour on display at Hollywood parties and mansions. But seen within the breadth of Generation Wealth, the photographer and documentarian’s newly published photo-book, Greenfield’s photographs function more like a sociological study or an illustrated field guide. Documenting “the influence of affluence,” Greenfield captures a cultural zeitgeist formed by the cult of celebrity, commodity fetishism, beauty pageant culture, plastic surgery, and the objectification of women.
These topics aren’t new for Greenfield, though Generation Wealth can be read as an overarching thesis tying together themes she’s explored in depth in pervious projects. Her 2012 film The Queen of Versailles (for which Greenfield won the US Directing Award at Sundance) followed Jackie Siegel (the titular “Queen”) and her billionaire husband David as they struggled to build their dream, 90,000-square-foot home during the 2008 financial collapse. In the documentary THIN (2006), Greenfield follows women with eating disorders while they recover in a treatment facility in Florida. And her book Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood (1997) documents the lives of Los Angeles teenagers, filled with the trappings of expensive clothes and fancy cars.