Teens On Film

"Teens On Film" - Lori Gottlieb, November 19, 2002

Alli, Annie, Hannah, and Berit, all 13 years old, before their first big party night.
- Lauren Greenfield

– VENICE, Calif. –Perched on a ladder and wearing jeans, flip-flops, and a purple T-shirt with a pink heart, photographer Lauren Greenfield is tossing down a set of empty cloth bags.

"I'm, like, so disorganized," she says, searching for equipment the day before leaving for a photo shoot of military recruits on Parris Island.
"I mean, it's like, so embarrassing."

It's no accident that Greenfield, 36, has made a career of chronicling teen culture.

Like the young subjects in her latest collection, "Girl Culture" (Chronicle Books) – photos are now on exhibit at Manhattan's blue-chip Pace/MacGill Gallery – Greenfield is a contradiction.

Educated at Harvard, she peppers her speech with "likes" and "you knows." She's fiercely unconventional but married her college sweetheart, video-game exec Frank Evers. And she's both fascinated by and critical of the scene she's spent the past decade documenting.

Greenfield's first book, 1995's "Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood," launched her career as the glossy go-to photographer for youth culture.

"There's definitely a piece of me in what I choose to photograph," explained Greenfield, who grew up in Venice and attended a tony private high school in Santa Monica, "When I started shooting 'Fast Forward,' I was only a few years older than those high school kids, and I think the girls in 'Girl Culture' are all different sides of myself."

Greenfield's latest examines sexuality and body image among a diverse group of young women, from teens at a Catskills weight-loss camp to the Stanford women's swim team to Las Vegas showgirls.

She catalogs those peculiarly American female phenomena – waxing, dieting, tanning, breast enlargement – in a large cross-section of young women ranging from Los Angeles to a wealthy Minneapolis suburb to Chattanooga, Tenn.

She depicts a culture where celebrities and strippers influence debutantes and Bat Mitzvah girls, where mothers try to look like their daughters, who, in turn, want to grow up too quickly.

"Lauren seems to ingratiate herself into a culture of girls in a way that allows her and us to know what they're thinking," said Joan Jacobs Brumberg, a professor at Cornell University who wrote the intro to "Girl Culture."

"In the book," Greenfield said, "you have girls saying, 'I'm Kate Spade, and my friend is this other designer. I'm tight pants and my friend is bell bottoms.' It's defining yourself from the outside, and I really identified with that."

She still does. Upon her arrival in New York two days before the opening of her show, Greenfield fretted about what to wear.

"I do get self-conscious, even though I know I shouldn't," she said. "For the opening, I'm wearing a black lace dress over nude fabric. I hope that's OK. I mean, what's the right thing to wear to a show about girl culture?"