Photos & Analysis
For my photobook, I photographed an array of subjects ranging from children to young adults who all were bred from upper class households. I not only photographed them, but I also conducted interviews and included quotes from Melanie, Sydney, and Alissa whose photographs I felt were the most powerful and most accurately conveyed my message.
This photograph reflects the theme of Fast Forward of a “loss of innocence” and emulating “Hollywood” culture, specifically in relation to drugs and alcohol. This female is smoking in order to relate to her favorite starts such as Miley Cyrus, who has been famous lately for her crazy antics and marijuana usage. She has mastered all of the “cool smoking tricks” due to her constant usage and desire to fit in with her older peers. She does attempt to shield her face though, because she knows what the repercussions of her actions could be, although she still is an avid drug user. This girl also happens to be in a social group of elite young Jewish girls, many coming from Los Angeles. This photograph is my take on Greenfield’s photograph of a high school student blowing smoke into another one’s mouth and of the photograph of a high schooler inhaling air freshener in the bathroom.
This photograph reflects ideas that are present both in Fast Forward and Girl Culture. It relates to female body image issues specifically, but in general it reflects how young girls try to replicate the “Hollywood” image of beauty by sucking in their stomachs to a point where they look unhealthy. Sydney is getting ready for a night out, which quickly turns into hours of self hatred in relation to her body image. This photograph is my take on Greenfield’s photograph in which a young girl is standing on a scale and weighing herself. This is also one of my many mirror photographs which allow me to capture my subjects from all angels. Unlike Greenfield’s relationship to her subjects, I know Sydney, so the mirror creates a barrier and disconnection between me and the subject. This allows my photographs to appear more raw and not posed.
This photograph of Alissa is very similar to the previous one of Sydney in that both girls are getting ready for a night out at the University of Michigan. But rather than reflecting on her body image, Alissa is reflecting on her face and how she can make herself look more adult and sophisticated with the use of makeup. She wants to emulate the faces, makeup styles, and overall looks of her favorite celebrities and so she posses in the mirror for hours. This is another one of my mirror photographs, which again allows me to disconnect from my relationship to Alissa. She is very focused on getting ready for the night.
Lauren Greenfield, in her work Fast Forward, conveys a sense of a “loss of innocence” by photographing youths all over Los Angeles; this overall concept is what I wanted my photography to capture. Greenfield’s work encompasses children ranging from the ages of toddlers to teens and of multicultural backgrounds growing up in different areas of the city. Due to my work being restricted to the city of Ann Arbor, finding all different types of adolescents to photograph was the hardest part of my task, and so I have not totally replicated Greenfield’s vision for Fast Forward. So I have adapted my photobook to one where the subject’s all hail from upper class families, which has caused wealth to be a major influence on their lives. Without the city of Los Angeles as my backdrop it has been difficult to find teenagers such as Levon who has identified himself as a tagger, gangster, schoolboy, athlete, and drag queen and children such as 3-year-old Phoebe who from such a young age is exposed to such adult things as VIP openings of department stores. Not only has it been difficult for me to find people to photograph, but also once I find them it is nearly impossible for me to attain the same sort of connection that Greenfield did with her subjects. Part of Greenfield’s process is getting to know the people she photographs so that she is able to have a better understanding of her subjects and the messages that they are projecting. She even goes so far as to dedicate her photobook to one of her subjects that passed away before the publishing. This aspect, in my opinion is one of the most captivating parts of Fast Forward, because through the picture’s descriptions the viewer is able to get a clear understanding of the subject. It gives the viewer insight into who the people are and why they act the way that they do. Through my photographs I have tried to portray my subjects’ feelings about the world and why they constantly feel the need to act more mature and “grown up,” and so I hope to somewhat match Greenfield’s vision. I added descriptions and quotes to my pictures based off of brief interviews I had with the subjects. Greenfield’s photographs are also very artistic and unique in their use of lighting, effects, and flash and through different forms of media I attempted to give my photographs a similar feel.
The Jewishness in Greenfield’s photographs is represented through her own heritage and through the lifestyles of Jewish Los Angeles children and teens. Through her photographs in Fast Forward, Greenfield captures the wealthy Jews in their natural habitats of home, school, and the party scene. She depicts them at bar and bat mitzvahs, proms, as well as at her Alma Matter Crossroads. Growing up, herself, as a Jew in Los Angles, Greenfield was able to give a clear insight into their daily lives. I feel that I have been able to capture a similar sort of essence in my photographs, being that I am a Jewish student at the University of Michigan. I have been exposed to the superficial Jewish culture all around campus and have attempted to capture the essence of a “loss of innocence” through my photographs. Most of my subjects also happen to be Jewish students who stem from upper-class families from around the country, some even being from Los Angeles and attending the very same high school that Greenfield did.
In my photography I have also had to stray away from Greenfield’s ideas in order to adapt to the times. The world is an ever-changing place and children always seem to be ahead of the trends. A major difference in modern day society is children’s use of technology, and very few of Greenfield’s photographs display that ideal. Greenfield photographed a female student at her commencement ceremony at Crossroads High School playing a game boy, in modern times that same girl would probably be on her IPhone taking “selfies” in her cap and gown. I say this because that is what I did at my own graduation, and I didn’t even attempt to hide it from the audience. Another major change from the actions in Fast Forward is the difference in drug choice. In modern times marijuana has become a major drug in teen circles, especially those of the rich and famous, and Greenfield has no pictures capturing that. Rather she has photographs of teenagers smoking cigarettes and sniffing cans of air freshener.
Taking these photographs has been immensely liberating because it has allowed me to capture things that I am interested in. I have been able to photograph my peers in relaxed settings, and with the help of my camera I am able to manipulate any situation into what I please in order to portray my feelings in the moment. Through interviewing and photographing my peers I have also been able to gain a closer look into their lives and really get a better understanding of who they are. Lauren Greenfield’s Fast Forward has not only influenced my photography, but it has also influenced my outlook on life. I am a teenager of the 21st century and although I did not grow up in Los Angeles, I did grow up in a city that I believe to be very similar, Miami, Florida. Miami is swarming with children of different ethnicities and ages just trying to fit in and adapt to the “cool culture.” Growing up in Miami, I was exposed to the same fast-paced lifestyle as those of teenagers growing up in Los Angeles. I was exposed to preferential treatment, wealth, partying, and drugs at a very young age, much like the subjects of the photographs. So in doing this project I was able to not only take a deeper look into my subjects, but also to take a deeper look into myself and ask, why am I in such a rush to grow up?