Lauren Greenfield has photographed a man who wears 33 pounds of gold. She has photographed a two-year-old getting a pedicure, a home so large it has 32 bathrooms, and a banker who felt shortchanged by his $3.6 million bonus. She has photographed Kim Kardashian and Tiger Woods, JLo and Jay Z, and a Chinese billionaire with a replica of Mount Rushmore–at one-third scale–in his backyard. In fact, over the last 25 years, Greenfield, who is as much sociologist as photographer, has turned her camera on every imaginable expression of wealth and, as such, is uniquely qualified to comment on our increasingly off-the-rails obsession with affluence.
Greenfield’s prescient body of work, which includes the award-winning documentary The Queen of Versailles and her viral video #LikeAGirl, is being presented as Generation Wealth: a 504-page book and a provocative, sweeping exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, opening on April 8.
I spoke with Greenfield about how her images tell the story of a growing addiction to consumerism, and what our obsession with wealth means for the future.