Artist Statement

Artist Statement

Fast Forward Ten Years
by Lauren Greenfield

The making of these pictures and the publishing of this book changed me in ways I could never have imagined.  This period was my photographic adolescence—filled with search, questions, rebellion, experimentation. By the time the book was published and the images were on exhibit in museums, I was an adult. I had found my voice— both photographically and personally.

I began Fast Forward as a local story, specific to my hometown of Los Angeles.  By the time I was done, this body of work had become about something that went beyond L.A.; the early loss of innocence in a media-saturated society and how kids are affected by the culture of materialism, the cult of celebrity, and the emphasis on image.  Much of the phenomena I documented are now taken for granted all over the country.  Anyone who views mainstream media is familiar with terms like “wigger,  “tweeners”  and “bling-bling” (newly added to the Oxford English Dictionary.)  The popularity of reality television and the phenomenon of the “web cam” have glorified celebrity as a worthy and attainable goal for young people.   Precocious sexuality among teens and pre-teens is now a familiar part of the cultural fabric. Girls look up to Britney and Christina and wear highly sexualized adult clothing in middle school and below.  Taking advantage of this point, clothing companies market thong underwear and make-up to pre-teenagers. Early puberty has become a physiological reality with one in seven Caucasian girls developing breasts or public hair by age 8, and one in two among African-Americans, according to recent studies.  The explosion of the internet and its integral place in education and teen socializing makes the filtering of mature content from children a near impossibility.

As the internet continues to render geographic separation inconsequential, Marshall McCluhan’s global village continues to shrink.  When I traveled around the country to photograph my second book Girl Culture, I found fewer regional differences than I expected. Kids from suburban and urban areas, big cities and small towns share a cultural (and often architectural) landscape of malls, chain stores, music, television, and internet information and chat that shapes their values and world view.  Thanks to programs like Sex and the City and its widespread popularity among teenagers, one doesn’t have to grow up in Beverly Hills to know Prada and Jimmy Choo and desire them.  Versace and DKNY are worn in the inner-city of South Central L.A. Starbucks, Gap, Puff Daddy and J-Lo unite Kansas City and Edina, Minnesota, rich and poor.

In recent years, I photographed “Fast Forward” youth in Milan and Shanghai. The young and privileged in Shanghai don’t care about politics or communism but are obsessed with MTV, Fashion TV, Gucci, and L.V. (Louis Vuitton).  Milanese youth don cutting edge hip-hop fashion originated by the inner city and perfected by haute couture designers. Fourteen-year old Italian girls wear thongs deliberately hiked up over their low-riding pants and rip revealing holes in their jeans. They go out to discos on school nights and dance to American hip-hop and electronica until dawn.

And yet, as the Fast Forward photographs have been shown in museums and festivals, from New York, to North Carolina, Indiana, Arizona, Italy, the Netherlands, France, China and Russia, people are still shocked by them.  They are disturbed by what is exotic and what is familiar.  They recognize themselves or their children and at the same time insist that their lives and values are not like those represented in the book.   

I continue to be fascinated and disturbed by how the “getting older younger” phenomenon continues unabated.  And now, as I raise my three-year old son in Los Angeles, it has become a more personal cautionary tale.   My son has does not listen to the radio but knows Eminem lyrics.  He is not allowed to watch television but is on a first-name basis with Sponge Bob, the Hulk, the Muppets and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  He loves going out for sushi and recently had a birthday party with exotic reptiles who jumped and slithered around the front yard.  And I too am disturbed by the exotic and the familiar.