© Dougie Wallace
© Dougie Wallace
Growing up in Glasgow, I’d often see stray dogs; and if a dog was being carried or pushed in a pram it would be by a slightly batty old woman. In my mind, dogs were simply man’s best friends, but then I started my Harrodsburg project, in London’s Knightsbridge, and stumbled upon the strange world of pet parents.
I was in Italy on an assignment that came from the Harrodsburg work. There isn’t the same abundance of wealth on the streets of Milan as in London and I was becoming frustrated. It was then that I noticed groomed and preened dogs being paraded around the streets at dusk. Somewhere between growing up in Glasgow and hitting the streets of Milan, dogs had been elevated to fashion item status. This cultural shift fascinated me. Back in London, I continued shooting Harrodsburg but found myself increasingly drawn to dogs rather than their owners. The dogs had human expressions, strong characters, individual personalities and I was hooked.
My pursuit of them took me to New York and Tokyo and I began to realise that anthropomorphic ‘parents’ can spend as much money on accessorising and grooming their ‘offspring’ as they do on themselves. Even so, it was the dogs and their canine traits that jumped out at me: their claws, paw pads, incisors, drool drenched beards and wet noses. I began to capture the streets from a dog’s eye view that we bipeds wouldn’t normally see.
In Tokyo, what is often referred to as ‘extreme humanising’ seems to have reached its zenith. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a correlation between the drop in the birth rate and all the furry babies being pushed around in prams. Humans want love and their dogs give it to them unconditionally. Some would argue this justifies the pampering. Some might even see it as an advantage that their child in a fur coat will never grow out of its stroller, answer you back or need support through university and beyond.
I’m a dog lover. As a photographer, I particularly like it that they don’t know what a camera is; they never chase me down the street demanding I delete the photo. And whilst I would love to own one, I do fear their paw prints on my travel plans.
I definitely got the sense that some of the dogs had forgotten they were dogs at all. Dogs don’t know they’re wearing designer clothes or Swarovski crystal collars but they clearly enjoy all the pampering; they’ve never had it so good. But there are others that would rather be running around a park chasing balls or chewing bones. After all every dog must have his day.
© Claudius Schulze
© Claudius Schulze
The extent natural disaster protection became part of the European landscape shows the body of work “State of Nature”. Claudius Schulze travelled about 50 000 km across Europe, photographing with a large format view camera down from an aerial work platform seemingly picturesque landscapes.
But each of those idyllic sceneries contains imperfections: alpine panoramas are crossed by snow sheds, the North Sea coast is furrowed by breakwaters. In each of the photographs protective structures rise into the landscape. In the age of the Anthropocene climate change and extreme weather constantly increase the threads of gales, floods, and avalanches; it's civil protection agencies maintaining ordinary life. These pictures are not about on defining the boundary between “artificial” and “natural”. On the contrary, the defences are the prerequisite to these landscapes: the sunshine sparkles on the surface of the mountain lakes only because it was artificially dammed, the dunes only rise because they are protected against storm surges.
At the moment, we still profit from driving climate change through our consumption. At the moment the catastrophes we have equipped ourselves for and which are the consequences of our actions are largely felt elsewhere and not with us, not in the “First World.” At the moment we still live carefree – in the belief of the picturesque beauty of nature, while elsewhere, catastrophic nature strikes harder than it ever did.
Claudius Schulze’s photographs are a visual inquiry into how these bulwarks against climate change have become inseparable from idyllic landscapes as we know them.
© Rania Matar
© Rania Matar
As a Lebanese-born American woman and mother, my ethnic background and cross-cultural experiences inform my art. I have dedicated my work to exploring issues of personal and collective identity through photographs of female adolescence and womanhood – both in the United States where I live and the Middle East where I am from – in an effort to focus on notions of identity and individuality, within the context of the underlying universality of these experiences.
I am interested in what it means to be a girl and a woman and how we make sense of a world that poses endless questions on girls and women of all backgrounds. In this work, I am focusing on young women – the ages of my own daughters – as they enter adulthood today and have to face a new reality they are often not prepared for, a humbling reality that is most often not as glamorous as the one portrayed on social media. I seek to portray the raw beauty of their age, their identity, their individuality, their universality, but also their vulnerability, their physicality, and how they confront the places where they live and the situations they find themselves in. I want to see beyond the ‘selfie’ attitude they might want to portray or the Instagram feed they have curated. I am photographing them, the way I, as a woman, a photographer, a mother, sees them, with no ‘filter’.
My work addresses the states of 'Becoming' –puberty, growing up, vulnerability, bodily fragility, body image, strength, imperfection, femininity –all in the context of the relationships to our specific physical environment and universal humanity. By making intimate portraits of women in the United States and in the Middle East –and while still looking to reveal the individuality of each woman who poses before me, I focus on our essence, our physicality and the commonalities that make us human –ultimately highlighting how female subjectivity develops in parallel forms across cultural lines. -Rania Matar
© Simon Norfolk
© Simon Norfolk
I’ve photographed a great many projects in Afghanistan over the years. I pay my ‘rent’ by shooting for the AKTC who very kindly took me in and allow me to live with them whenever I’m visiting.
Their compound is a home from home and an ‘ear on the ground’ for all the information I need to safely make my projects there. In return I take pictures of their wonderful restoration projects.
Part of the massive Aga Khan Development Network, an NGO who build hospitals and schools and do relief work all over the Muslim world, the AKTC are focussed on restoring Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. With funding from some of the foreign embassies in Kabul, an organisation run by Afghans (with a little foreign help) has worked to bring back from ruins Afghanistan’s history and put some pride back into Afghan hearts. They are led by my good friend Ajmal Maiwandi, born in Afghanistan, educated in America and a taught architecture at the Bartlett in London. They’ve recently produced a book of all of their projects over the last 15 years or so; I’m very proud that much of the photography is mine.
© Luisa Dorr
© Luisa Dorr
Maysa is a project about race and gender in Brazil. I meet Maysa during the final contest for “Young Miss Brazil”, in April 2014, she was there checkin out. This day I discovered that this contest have two categories, one for black another for white women. Young Miss Brazil and Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is, unfortunately, very common, although approximately 40% of Brazilians are black in color. The vast majority live in a marginal perpetual status. Months later Maysa contacted me for a photo shooting for her personal portfolio, she wanted to give a try to the 2015 contest. What was supposed to be a simple gift, became a work in progress. We remained in contact and each month we developed a strong friendship. One that is helping me to be aware of a tough reality of my country; racism, sexism, social exclusion, and struggle to survive. In 2015 Maysa won the title Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty.
I’m seeing Maysa and her family, fighting to get a comfortable place, and social recognition. And what is more exciting, seeing the coming of age of a wonderful human being that represents a lot of values that my country is slowly losing. The idea of my long term project is to continue to follow Maysa and her dreams and document how is to be a black in this so society that glorifies the white beauty -Luisa Dorr
© Alfredo Chiarappa
© Alfredo Chiarappa
“El raggaeton es la calle pura,” tells me El Chiki, a professional dancer. “There’s no raggaeton without the street, and there’s no street without raggaeton,” adds El Tiger.
In Havana, raggaeton is the soundtrack of the suburbs.
Just outside of the city centre, where old musicians entertain tourists playing salsa and other traditional Cuban rhythms, all you hear are the hits of Gente de Zona (winners of a Grammy), Chacal, Jacob Forever, Chocolate, Harrison e El Principe.
In the markets or out in the streets, shop owners only blast raggaeton from their stereos.
“Cuban raggaeton is split in two genres — farandula and repartero,” explains Capetillo, author and singer. You can tell farandula by the romantic lyrics and the way the artists who produce it show off their wealth. It’s played in the top clubs, like Capri, where Adriano DJ organizes one of the most prestigious soirees, each time inviting one of the most popular artists on the Cuban music scene like Yomil e Dani, Jacob Forever, El Principe, Angels, Lady Laura.
Repartero, on the other hand, is the music of the barrio — the lyrics are raw and they talk about day-to-day life. It still seems confined to the island, while almost all farandula artists live in Miami and only go back to Cuba for live shows and to see their families. Repartero reminds me of a mix between rap and Jamaican dancehall, but every time I dare to make this comparison everybody tells me that no, “Cuban music is Cuban music.” That makes me understand Cubans don’t like to be defined.
Despite the obvious differences between the genres, frequent collaborations between farandula and repartero artists blur the line between the two — as with many other things in Cuba, music is a mezcla of different cultures. What they wear is also a mix of street cultures, a revisited urban style, since most brands that can be found there are fake.
The artists love gold — the symbol of who made it — and their street style is not exactly in line with the Revolution. Their bodies are covered in tattoos and sexual references are a constant, in lyrics and concerts too. Everybody shows me the video where Chacal mimics a full intercourse with a fan during a live at Liceo de Regla, a club where, thanks to Havana Vip planing, the best artists perform at a reasonable price.
Seeing a show is not something everyone can afford: Jacob’s live at Liceo costs 4 cuc, Yomil e Dani’s at Capri is 50 cuc. The most popular solution for a Friday night then is to go to one of the block parties that kids organize all across the island, like the ones I went to in Alamar, just outside of Havana.
As the spontaneous block parties in the suburbs show, raggaeton doesn’t spread through traditional channels. On the contrary: raggaeton videos are rarely seen on national media, as they’re blamed of putting forward ideals that are not in line with the country’s history and identity, particularly when it comes to showing off riches and women.
Nonetheless, piracy is legal in Cuba, so there are plenty of stores selling compilations with the most-wanted songs of the week, video-cds called “El Paquete”. Artists pay to get their songs and videos on them, hoping DJs and clubs will play them and that they’ll be invited to do a live show.
Music production and distribution doesn’t bring any money to artists, so shows are the only way for them to earn money.
While shooting in Cuba I meet some of the best artists around at the moment, like Harrison, Jacob Forever and El Tiger. It’s very hard to talk to Jacob — he arrives a few seconds before his concert, allows me to take a couple of portraits of him and shortly after grabs his phone and starts texting nervously. He lives between Miami and Havana, he’s very well-known outside of the country too and has collaborated with some of the best raggaeton artists in the world. The show is very powerful, it lasts a bit longer than an hour and during the last song security guards take Jacob away. After seeing a few more shows, I realize it’s more of a way of doing things than a necessity: the artist who doesn’t want to give himself to his fans fits right into Cuba’s new narrative, already close to a Western and globalized lifestyle.
“We didn’t go to school, we don’t know anything about music but music makes us live. In my lyrics, there’s only what I live through everyday,” Harrison tells me. A mix of dancehall and rap — according to me, at least — in raggaeton terms, with strong lyrics and an aggressive show, right now make him the future of Cuban repartera music. Talking about his most famous song, “El Rey,” a diss against Chocolate, the artist who invented the repartero genre, he concludes: “The street, the people say that I’m the king. I didn’t decide that myself, they did.”
A Project by Franck Bohbot (Photographs) and Philippe Ungar (Interviews)
A Project by Franck Bohbot (Photographs) and Philippe Ungar (Interviews)
Every indie bookstore has a personality and every individual can find one whose character suits him. Not just the books themselves and the authors, but the very bookstore itself. It is, in a sense, finding oneself in a place where one can discover a community. Books provide bridges between people. These booksellers’ portraits are a reflection of their customers and ultimately of their neighborhoods, and collectively make a portrait of New York City.
Historically the City has had a wealth of indie bookstores, but the recent past has seen a serious decline in those numbers, in part due to bargain megastores, internet retailers, the ascension of the e-book, not to mention the spectacular rise of their monthly rents.
Today there is a revival in indie bookstores, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their diversity is extraordinary, specializing in biography, travel, mystery fiction, stories for children, gender, poetry, collectible, academic, African-American literature, Hispanic culture, cooking and much more. And their spaces too are so different, from a container in Bushwick to a prestigious building in midtown Manhattan. Nevertheless, the booksellers are all looking for one thing--sharing their passion for books; new, used, bargained or rare.
Franck Bohbot and I, both expats from France, love New York and we love books. We have portrayed these booksellers to better understand their stories, their visions of their job and their involvement in the New York culture.
© Marie Hald/Moment
© Marie Hald/Moment
Is there thing as perfection? I’m not sure I believe there is.
Yet we strive for it, me and my girlfriends. A lot of people tell us this is just what being in your twenties is like. You’ve had a hard time figuring out your place in the world and are now starting to earn what adulthood is about.
But when I look around, I see something happening.
My friends are dropping out of their universities, taking sick leaves for stress and anxiety.
It has happened to at least six of my friends in the last couple of years.
Their doctors prescribe them anti depressants and order them to take a break. It's the overwhelming need and demand to be perfect that tortures us.
When I look at my parents’ generation, it was a different story. The demands from society weren't that imminent. And at the same time they had a common struggle: The hippies, the women's and the gay rights movements. With my generation, it seems like we’re just fighting ourselves, solo.
The expectations of us – the kids of the late eighties, early nineties - are enormous. Living in rich welfare countries, we have all the possibilities in the world to become successful. To look successful and beautiful like the people we follow on social media, to develop careers, have the “X Factor”, become famous, marry whoever we want, and be perfect mothers.
But what happens when the pressure becomes too much for us?
The women of my group of friends are tired of the pressure. They want to make a riot or at least do something, so that the same thing doesn't happen to their own kids.
In the following portraits you will meet them and hear what they have to say.
© Didier Bizet
© Didier Bizet
The little village of Tastubek situated in the little Aral sea, (the north part of the Aral sea) which has been forever altered by the Soviet Union, is situated 90km from Aralsk, a former port on the Aral Sea. Since the completion of the Kokaral dam in 2005 financed by the world bank, and the installation of an electricity grid in 2009, the winds of change have reached Tastubek. Akerke and her husband Nurzhan moved to the village a few years ago, making a living fishing, an industry which seemed to have been wiped out in this region of Kazakstan until recently. More than 15 kinds of fish have reemerged, allowing fishing production to expand from 600 tons in 1996 to 7,200 tons today said Serik Dyussenbayev, a guide living in Aralsk.
Bracing the 45-degree heat in summer and the -25-degree winters, Nurzhan and his fishermen friends, work 7 days a week. And so in Tastubek, in the far-off Aral Sea, Akerke, Nurzhan and their daughter Dilnaz can now feel every hope for the future. It seems that time has changed now in the little Aral sea region, the ground is getting more green and birds sing along the reeds. The project of the second phase of the dam with 4 meters higher will bring the water to Aralsk and fully restore the North part says Serik. But at the moment, money is going to the Expo2017 in Astana and only the president Noursoultan Nazarbaïev will
© Giulio Di Sturco
© Giulio Di Sturco
Can a single company be responsible for the birth of up 70.000 children in the world? Yes. The global sperm donation industry is booming, has a leader country and a sperm bank claimed as the largest sperm bank in the world. Cryos, a company that was established in Aarhus in 1987, has become one of Denmark’s top exports delivering to more than 80 countries: about 96 percent of its sperm is exported.
As the market developed and demand increased, initially from heterosexual couples with fertility issues and then from single mothers and homosexual couples, the Danish laboratories became a reference point due to many factors. The high quality human sperm and eggs from selected and screened donors, the supposed virility of Danish men linked with the demand of a ‘Viking baby’, apparently a big detail that makes the difference. In many countries it is illegal to use non-anonymous donors (this influences the low number of local donors like in the UK, one-third of the sperm used there is imported) but the large selection of Cryos bank provides both types, anonymous or named. A great amount of information can be offered if the donor is indeed named. Potential parents can listen to the voices of donors, read about their childhood, see their baby photos, know race, ethnicity, eye and hair color, height, weight, blood type and in most cases education and occupation. The price depends on the profile chosen and it is also possible to choose for an exclusive donor (nobody else will purchase/reserved sperm from this man's profile). This comes at a price though, a whopping additional 12,000 euros! Delivery is available for EU countries (1-2 weekdays) or the rest of the world (1-5 weekdays) with dry ice or liquid nitrogen containers. From the bank to your home: this is the way Cryos delivers new life to this planet.
© Michael Thomas Jones
© Michael Thomas Jones
These questions are the motivation behind the projects.
On the decision to leave the EU
In June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The process of negotiation on the mechanics of leaving are underway. In Europe and throughout the West the established political landscapes are being challenged and the future of the EU is by no means certain.
Railways have been integral to the modern economic and social development of Europe, to the drive of capitalism and industrialisation and to the integration and the displacement of people. The railways have been both host and witness to Europe's modern history. The railways hold a unique position in the way we move around our environment which is routed in our collective cultural experience. Like the US road trip, railway journeys have an inherent romance, and trains - being able to carry many people with freedom to move around within them - become a moving microcosm of our society. Trains encourage interaction and chance meetings. One only has to think of the significance of inter-railing to so many young people, with the European rail network opening up before them as metaphor for their futures, to understand the significance railways have in our society. The freedom of movement, of trade and people, a fundamental tenet of the EU seems symbiotic with railways. In 1994 the Channel Tunnel opened creating a physical bond via the tracks between the UK and Europe's mainland one year after the Maastricht Treaty cemented the EU in legislation.
The decision taken in the UK to leave the EU has divided the country. Using the railways as the means of travelling throughout the EU, people making journeys throughout Europe will become the faces and provide the stories through which the work will elaborate. Interviews made alongside portraits will become a patchwork narrative describing diverse perspectives and creating an overall 'sound' of Europe.. The project is also a document, both visual and literal, of a journey to understand the issues and decisions that led to the creation of the EU and its development and also to investigate the political and social issues now affecting it's future.
Equally fundamental to the project will be body of text in conjunction with the imagery based on interviews conducted with the people I meet on the rail trips around Europe. Conversations will be guided towards discussions of Europe and people’s perceptions of Europe and their relationship to it. There will be no specific coercion to discuss the UK’s role however that will not be purposefully avoided either. Instead it will be a collection of testimony based on anecdote, biography, history and speculation, from mundane tales of every day life to more 'powerful' stories. This will become a sort of ‘noise’ of Europe, mixing narrative from different sources as well as my own to create an overall European story.
On the question of Scottish independence
The A9 is the longest road in Scotland. Historically it was the main road between Edinburgh and John o’ Groats, and has been called the spine of Scotland. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country took place on Thursday 18 September 2014. Scotland voted (narrowly) to remain part of the UK. This project looks at the topography of Scotland along the A9. The people, within these images and landscapes, were identified and asked which way they would vote.
© Giulio Di Sturco
© Giulio Di Sturco
From the colonial empire to the "largest democracy in the world", the thread of Indian history runs in the form of railway lines. 65,000 km, to be precise, largely designed by the British administration for connecting the metropolises of a giant empire. Victorian railway stations, timetables, standardized rails, hierarchical administration ... The colonial imprint extends to some trains which have become legendary such as the "Imperial Mail ', Known as the most luxurious line in the world, which also since 1926 connects the two economic poles in the subcontinent: Bombay in the West and Calcutta in the East.
Today, 70 years after independence, the line is still active. The number 12322 is registered on the locomotive of the "Kolkata Mail", which connects Mumbai to Kolkata, under the new name of the cities supported by the Hindu nationalist party in power. But this trip is no longer that of the VIP 'Raj'; it is a lifeline, serving 48 stations, each telling a piece of the history of an ever changing nation. A cheap train that is both popular and overloaded, step by step, it is an India torn between past and future, tradition and modernity, scrolling screens and speeds of 55 km/h journeys. Along the historic route people take breaks: in Mughal Sarai, Asia's largest marshalling yard, every week tens of thousands of pilgrims are hosted at the ghats of Varanasi; and then on to Dhanbad, the black lung of Indian growth, where coal fills the air like a smoke screen...
Party Chhatrapati station (former Victoria station), is a historical monument in Mumbai. The Kolkata Mail marks its terminus at Howrah station, the oldest station in the country (opened in 1905) and the beating heart of Calcutta. The end of the trip draws a unique testimony to India's Railway systems; it is one of the largest employers in the world with 1.6 million employees and its users. A look at the depth of about 70 years of independence, over the rails, rituals of life on board and steps marked throughout this country-continent.
This report is the discovery of India, from West to East, aboard the Kolkata Mail, the most historic railway on the occasion of 70 years of independence.
Text © Thomas Saintouren
© Toby de Silva
© Toby de Silva
The first thing you notice is the silence, an uncanny embrace of tranquility paradoxical to the submersion in nature. You don’t hear birds or insects, you don’t hear traffic from the road you just left, if you encounter another person you don’t hear them, they just appear pass by and are gone. Sometimes its a couple of hikers, usually it’s a middle aged man in a business suit. Occasionally the wind will blow the treetops and for a moment there is a feeling of life, but it passes quickly and the silence returns to leave you waiting for the sound of a twig on the floor to snap ominously behind you or for the bear who’s warning sign attached to a lamp post you observed skeptically from the safety of your hire car to come crashing through the undergrowth enraged by your trespassing. But they never materialize and you are alone in a landscape permeated with the resonance of death
The terrain is irregular, an endless grotesque topography of volcanic rock and twisted, tangled trees. Stepping off the few defined trails soon leads to the detritus of despair, the residue of a campsite, a last supper of instant noodles uneaten as there is no source of hot water, cigarette boxes and every type of alcohol, discarded clothing, pornography, the packaging from kitchen knifes and lengths of rope. Then there’s the tape, miles of it going in every direction, some fresh some ancient and frayed, dissecting the forest, each piece with its own story leading to another victim someone once discovered, but in their place are the religious effigies, the bouquet’s and the fruit that the bereaved have left in remembrance
The Aokigahara forest is positioned on the northwestern slopes of Mount Fuji, which towers majestically over it like a benevolent guardian. There are stories of distant generations practicing Ubasute, the abandonment of parents as a form of euthanasia in the forest. In recent times the Aokigahara gained its notoriety through Seicho Matsumoto’s 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) wherein a couple of tragic young lovers commit suicide in the forest. The 1993 Complete Manual of Suicide by Wataru Tsurumi, a book that sold over a million copies in Japan that is often reportedly found amongst remains further enhanced the forests notoriety by proclaiming it to be ‘The Perfect Place to Die’. On average around seventy people successfully take their lives each year in the forest from upwards of two hundred who enter with the intention and either reconsider or survive the attempt, making Aokigahara Jukai the worlds leading suicide destination.
© Max Aguilera-Hellweg
© Max Aguilera-Hellweg
I could just snap a picture and leave. But it’s not that easy. Humanoids, androids— they make them look like humans. Why make a robot with a head and eyes? Certainly there are robots that don’t have a head or a pair of eyes, robots that could be made or that already exist that are safe for humans to be around, that have the ability to perform various jobs, that are probably cheaper to build, and that may be even better at doing whatever we’d want or need a robot to do. But scientists have found it’s the eye contact that matters: just as important as eye contact is between humans, it is the glue that makes human-robot social interaction work.
You walk into a room, you see a humanoid there, you suspend disbelief—you don’t even realize it, but it happens. All of a sudden it has a gender: CB2 is a he, Bina48 is a she, and Valkyrie is a girl; they call her Val for short. You start talking to the robot, or she or he starts talking to you; you’re talking to a machine and it’s talking back to you. Having a robot with a head and eyes, speaking to each other as we do human to human, as opposed to performing complex data entry on a keypad or switching one terminal on, one terminal off, operating a series of switches you’d have to turn on or off to perform a single task, speaking to a robot is ideal. There is no higher means of achieving complex communication with ease and speed than human to human-like communication. Why humanoids, why androids? Robots with heads and eyes allow for more than just speech; nonverbal communication is made possible, when the eyes say one thing and words another, or when the two agree. Nonverbal communication—conscious or unconscious, gestures and signals, the mediation of personal space is just as important and essential as trust is between any two individuals, whether they be human and human, or human and machine.
These photographs were taken in the United States and Japan over a six year period at some of the world's leading research facilities in robot enginerring and laboratrires studying human robot interacton. Robots (artificial intelligence) are already amonst us in ways that we may not even imagined just a few years ago (Siri), and they will become increasingly more apart of our daily lives. These photographs, these robots, represent a catalouge of how science and scientitst has been thinking of this integration, viewing them is a journey into a future that is already upon us, the Darwinian/evolutionary curve of Android, Human, and Human Robot Interaction. The world has changed and will never be the same. They ask the question, what does it mean to be human. Be not afraid.
© Lauren Greenfield
© Lauren Greenfield
INTRODUCTION BY LAUREN GREENFIELD - Generation Wealth is the fruition of a twenty-five-year documentary inquiry into what I have called “the influence of affluence.” Consciously at times—and at other times unconsciously—I have captured signs of a seismic shift in our culture. I began to recognize the pattern in 2008, during the financial crisis, and I have been trying to decipher it ever since, both by making new work for this project and by editing the photographs I’ve made throughout my career.
The title of the project and many of the pictures could mislead the reader to think that this is a work about the 1 percent, about people who are wealthy. It is not. This work is about the aspiration for wealth and how that has become a driving force—and at the same time an increasingly unrealistic goal—for individuals from all classes of society. We have less social mobility now than we had in prior generations, and, more than ever before, a greater concentration of wealth is in the hands of the few. Flouting this reality, the “American Dream” has grown to outsized proportions. “People don’t dream in modest terms anymore. They all want to live in Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump,” says social critic Chris Hedges, whom I interviewed for this book and companion film. As our political system becomes less democratic—with wealthy donors and well-funded special-interest lobby groups exercising disproportionate influence on elections and legislation—we have experienced a democratization of the signifiers of wealth. Luxury for the common man, woman, and child defines the new American Dream. And if you don’t have money, as Emanuel, one of my teenage subjects in Los Angeles, assures us, “There are ways to make it seem like you do.” The aptly named rapper Future explains that the strategy is to “fake it till you make it.” This sentiment is echoed by many of my subjects who seek material-based status, from Minnesota to Milan, South Central Los Angeles to Shanghai, Dubai to Moscow. As Hedges attests, fictitious representations of a luxury lifestyle have replaced actual social mobility. The fact that many of the images in this book appear to be of worlds of wealth and belie their reality is precisely the point for both the subjects and for the image-maker (me) in an image-based culture.
As a photographer and filmmaker, and in a variety of media, from analog to digital, I have been asking questions about the culture of materialism, the cult of celebrity, and presentation-based status since my first major project, Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood, which I began in 1992 and published as my first book in 1997. That work explored those themes in the context of youth culture in Los Angeles and was inspired by my own high-school experience. At the time, I was struck by the early loss of innocence in our media-saturated culture, taking stock of a generation impacted by what I called “the values of Hollywood.” In that early work, I documented the excesses of the affluent, the attraction of what we now term “bling” among the poor, and the desire for fame and status-based image across boundaries of class, race, and neighborhood. What started to emerge in front of my camera was the dramatic influence of commercial pressures on young people’s values and behavior, as well as an unexpected homogenization of youth culture resulting from the shared consumption of increasingly ubiquitous media messages. I remember saying on the radio, while discussing my Fast Forward book, that despite the dramatic divisions in the city revealed by the L.A. riots, which I had covered in 1992, rich kids and poor kids had found common ground that their parents had not, and it was a shared love for Versace. ..Click to read the entire introduction essay by Lauren Greenfield
Visit the Generation Wealth website here