When we began this project, I was immediately drawn to Greenfield because of her biography and a few interviews I read. Her personal views of her own femininity as well as body image were shaped all too quickly from the materialistic and money consumed world surrounded her. When I first read her photo book, Girl Culture, I was drawn by the seemingly exaggerated. Her photo’s were aesthetically pleasing and at first glance, I assumed were posed. Although I knew there was a girl culture, I didn’t understand what it really was. Through my exploration of her work, I have come to the conclusion that Greenfield is not questioning where the sexualization of women but why women feel the need to act the way they do.
When I first began taking pictures, it was very difficult for me to take photos like Greenfield did. I hadn’t had much practice with a camera, I felt uncomfortable asking subjects to take photos, and my initial understanding of Greenfield wasn’t clear. I don’t think I was successful in my attempt to recreate Greenfield’s style until I fully understood what her goal was.
As a Jew, Greenfield identifies as, “a minority who has a critical eye on society.” (5) Her photographic critical eye allows the viewer to understand the struggle that girls all over are facing. Although she is a cultural observer and ethnographer, it was of a world she was a part of. It is driven from her experiences both as a teenager and as a women. Modern femininity has been shaped by the material world as well as pop culture to develop into an exhibitionist nature. Girls use their bodies to express themselves. Greenfield captures everyday actions that feel like performances but are just what have come to be cultural norms of vanity. Greenfield exposes a cold truth of what is coming of female expression and identity but provides minimal solution. She identifies a problem that goes full circle- it is not just something that Greenfield and her wealthy friends experienced but something that girls of all ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds experienced and will continue experiencing.
In an interview with Greenfield, she says,
“I’m engaged in this question about what has currency, what has status, and what has value. I think girls learn at an early age that their power as a woman comes from their body, and that it has value and currency,” (6)
She explores the pathological everyday: a phrase from the initial quote on my portfolio I keep coming back to. Before I took my photo’s, I wanted to try to examine and understand in fact was pathological of the girls I took my photos of. I was nervous when beginning I wouldn’t be able to take images that appeared as exaggerated as hers did or be comfortable enough to interview. I did not directly quote but I did interview. There was one photo I took in the beginning of the project that made me realize that I was not far from this incessant desire to be better. In the photo below, I was getting ready with my friends. One friend grabbed a skirt out of my closet and said, “Han, can I wear this tonight?” and I replied of course but she said, “No, I don’t mean am I allowed I mean do I look fat? I always hate the way my thighs and stomach look in skirts. I really don’t think I should wear this”.
I discovered that my family and friends were not at all distant from the pressure of girl culture and I began noticing how it was pathological: there was a disconnect between how women should feel about themselves and how they actually do feel about themselves. There was a disconnect between how other people view a girl’s body and what that does psychologically to both that girl and other females. Females utilize their bodies to express themselves. They use their bodies to prove themselves. They use their bodies to fit in, but it is never enough.