Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield examines the influence of affluence over the last 25 years, showing the globalization of materialism, celebrity culture and social status. This exhibition illustrates an aspirational gap between what we want and what we can afford. It is not about the rich, but the pervasive desire for more.

Lauren Greenfield is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Her works are widely known for their illustration of youth culture, gender bias and consumerism. Greenfield’s body of work, which includes the award-winning documentary The Queen of Versailles and her video #LikeAGirl, which has widely spread on the Internet, 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. This is her third collaboration with the Annenberg Space for Photography and first solo show, this is a cultural exploration that presents 195 color-saturated prints, 42 riveting first-person interviews and the accompanying multimedia projections and short films.

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth.

Lauren Greenfield has photographed a lot of rich and famous people such as Kim Kardashian, JLo, Jay Z; a Chinese billionaire with a replica of Mount Rushmore–at one-third scale–in his backyard; Xue Qiwen’s Shanghai entrepreneur and her apartment, all of the furniture is made by Versace. At the time Greenfield took this picture, in 2005, golf was a prestige sport, although when courses were built, the sport became increasingly accessible and was quickly pronounced passé; polo is the new golf.

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth. Xue Qiwen

Since Greenfield, who is as much sociologist as photographer, has started working on the Generation Wealth project and has turned her camera on every imaginable expression of wealth and everything that can be connected with our off-the-rails obsession with affluence. Greenfield believes that the worldwide obsession with wealth is morally unsustainable on so many levels: for our companies and mostly for the environment as there are so many cars in cities such as Moscow and Beijing that it is difficult for infrastructure to handle all of the cars.

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth

Although Greenfield didn’t intend to capture the environmental impact of our desire to own more and have bigger, her pictures clearly tell that story. From 1983 to 2013– the time period when Generation Wealth was in work – she found out that the average American home expanded from 1,725 square feet to 2,598 square feet. Moreover, some people added space accounts for larger and larger closets to store more things.

One of the trends that Greenfield has discovered is the new twist on enviously peering over the hedge at the neighbor’s house. It is not nonsense that people always compared themselves to their neighbors: an amount of cars, houses and their size etc. Although with the rise of reality TV and programs that demonstrate the affluent lifestyle, and with people watching it more and more, our society is influenced by these shows more than by our neighbors, we even spend more time watching such programs. Now people are looking for as big houses as they can afford, and not for those, which are near their family or friends. So what they have in common with their neighbors is their ability and desire to borrow as much as it is possible. As Greenfield says and her thought-provoking exhibition explores, nowadays people are more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians than with the Joneses.

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth

 

In the “The Princess Brand”, which is one of the chapters in Generation Wealth” Greenfield captures the ways in which girls’ traditional rites of passage have been transformed into highly profitable consumer rituals. For example, Disney does it as no one else. She made a picture of Christina, who is a pharmacy technician in Walmart, in 2013 at Disney World: her husband proposed to her there, and Christina called it a ‘dream come true moment,’ which included dinner in the castle and the ring in Cinderella’s slipper. Unsurprisingly, the wedding was also at Disney World and included a ride in a glass carriage.

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth. The Princess Brand

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth. The Princess Brand

At Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Greenfield took photos of little girls whose parents paid $200 to have their child transformed into a princess, with makeup, hair, and fairy dust. While other children were having fun there, the girls were stuck in a chair focusing on their appearance. So their day in such a great place for kids ended with an image instead of an experience.

“But the point for me is also about how, psychologically, our appetite for things became insatiable”.

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