Thesis & Background
Lauren Greenfield was born in 1966 into a wealthy Jewish family and grew up in Los Angeles, California where she was constantly exposed to the “Hollywood” culture of the time. She graduated from Harvard and quickly went on to become a prominent photographer and filmmaker in the late 20th and early 21st century. In her photobook Fast Forward, Greenfield decided to dive into her past by photographing children of Los Angeles, which allowed her a certain knowledge and understanding that was incomparable.
Jewish people generally began moving to Los Angles in the 1940s and 1950s and in doing so they created a whole new Jewish culture that has remained synonymously unique to this city. A lot of jewish people quickly became successful, a lot doing so in the entertainment industry, as well as becoming Anglo. “Nobody even thinks about Jews being here or, if they do, maybe they think about Hollywood,” said Karen Wilson, curator of a Jewish history mosaic in Los Angeles. Jewish people attempted to assimilate into the Los Angeles culture and adapt themselves to fit the “Hollywood” lifestyle. But, over the course of the 20th century Jewish photographers mostly felt segregated and separated from the rest of society which had major influences on their work as outsiders looking in. In Fast Forward though, Greenfield has a certain familiarity when it comes to her subjects and where she is photographing them, and so it gave her work a very unique look as a Jewish photographer. She still was an outsider to the youth that she photographed, but in a very different way then Jewish photographers of the past were outsiders. By photographing in Los Angles where she was raised, she strayed from Jewish photographers of the past who were basically outsiders to their surroundings. She still, though, was able to keep a sort of distance from her subjects that made her photographs and interviews all the more compelling.
Through her photographs she captured the trends in music, fashion, attitude, and language of the era by photographing kids from all over Los Angeles. She started off by photographing students at her past high school Crossroads, a mostly elite private-college preparatory school on the west side of Los Angeles, and then moved on to East Los Angeles, and later on to South Central. Although her subjects shared different socioeconomic backgrounds they all shared the commonalities of an eagerness to grow up, a striving to emulate MTV culture, and the “Hollywood” dream. Her photographs are meant to show that children from diverse backgrounds are still affected by popular culture, although how they are affected varies from person to person. The photographs in Fast Forward may only depict kids in Los Angeles, but these kids have a major influence on the rest of the youth in modern American society. Fast Forward aims to display the idea of a “loss of innocence” by photographing and interviewing children who have grown up in the crazy “City of Dreams.”
With my photobook I aim to replicate Greenfield’s vision for Fast Forward as well as I possibly can. My goal has been to mainly focus on and express her idea of a “loss of innocence” in youth through my photographs. But, unlike Greenfield, I have adapted this concept to modern times by photographing teens around Ann Arbor and children in my every day life. Through my photographs, I hope to demonstrate the ideas of a “loss of innocence” and the need to grow up too fast that have been influenced by popular culture and wealth. The wealth aspect of this, is why I have chosen to stray from children of poor families and focus on one’s whose money has had a major influence on their life, from childhood to life in college. Popular culture’s influence on teens is still a huge part of my photobook, but “MTV culture” is a thing of the past and kids are even more influenced by the “Hollywood lifestyle” than ever before. I also hope to illustrate the profound difference in freedom between teens when they are in high school and living at home (Greenfield’s photographs), as opposed to teens in college who do not go home to their parents and live on their own (my own photographs). I also conducted interviews, just as Greenfield did, in order to generate a deeper meaning for my photographs than simply the image that is on the page.