Thursday, June 14, 2007
Lauren Greenfield - The Most Personal Is The Most Universal
One of The VII Agency's founding photographers, Lauren Greenfield's images take us through the looking glass and delve into complex social issues
Modern society makes a variety of demands on young girls, creating a culture in which they're pressured to grow up too fast. While many lament this reality and wish it wasn't so, photojournalist Lauren Greenfield set out to do something about it. In her landmark book, Fast Forward, and its successor, Girl Culture, Greenfield aimed her camera at a phenomenon that tears at the very fabric of American life. The imagery may be profound, but Greenfield herself has approached her subjects with sensitivity and a personal touch that belies her sense of respect for the people she's photographing. Growing up in Southern California, Greenfield was at the epicenter of the image-centric culture that worships celebrity and materialism, and drives girls to grow up too fast. After graduating from high school, she traveled east to attend Harvard, an experience that gave Greenfield the perspective that only comes from being separated by time and distance. Her personal experiences give her a unique insight that, combined with her journalistic ability to immerse herself in a project, comes out in the images. Although she's quick to say she isn't an activist, it's clear from the photographs that Greenfield has a personal stake in the work.
Around the time she was finishing Girl Culture, Greenfield was contacted by her friend, James Nachtwey, about a novel idea. He asked if she would be interested in being one of the founding members of The VII Photo Agency, a new breed of photo agency that really only became feasible in the digital age. More of a virtual agency without central offices or a large staff, VII is something of a grand experiment that, so far, has exceeded everyone's expectations. With no seed money or outside investment capital, the members of the agency retain control over their images.
“It was definitely enabled by digital technology,” explains Greenfield. “We run on a low budget because we have low overhead. It's really a cooperative.”
The VII Photo Agency has garnered sponsorship by Canon, which gives the photographers access to the latest, most up-to-date gear. A longtime film shooter, Greenfield was loaned a Canon EOS-1D Mark II in the summer of 2004, and she immediately was attracted to the benefits it offered.