Recently, the photographer Lauren Greenfield was going through the half a million photos in her archives when she stopped at a picture of a tween: Back in 1992, she’d captured a 12-year-old Kim Kardashian, an image she'd glossed over at the time. Though Kardashian isn't the only celebrity Greenfield has photographed over the years—she shot Tupac the year before his death, not to mention Selena Gomez for W in 2010—it's the nonfamous who've always stood out in Greenfield's work. Those are the subjects she's largely stuck with ever since turning away from the highlands of Chiapas in Mexico while assignment for National Geographic to the wilderness closer to home—an ecosystem of extreme wealth at her alma mater, the famed private school Crossroads, in Los Angeles. From there, Greenfield has documented the symptoms of materialism, capitalism, and celebrity culture through subjects like an eating disorder clinic and the construction of the country’s largest home during the financial crisis (which led to her award-winning 2012 documentary, The Queen of Versailles).
Now Greenfield's 25 years of documentation has been collected into a book and an exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography called Generation Wealth—which she is also in the process of turning into a film. Something of a well-traversed cultural observer at this point, Greenfield opens her book on Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, teenagers in the market for nose jobs, and other unicorns of this particular era of excess.