PDN Photo District News


Call for submissions: Emerging Photographer Summer 2016

Our sister magazine, Emerging Photographer, is looking for a group of 10 new photographers to featured in the Summer 2016 issue. Emerging Photographer is entirely submission-based, gathering international entries from photographers with around five years or less of professional experience, and selected by editors of Emerging PhotographerPDN, and Rangefinder magazines. The magazine is mailed out to 8,000 art directors, buyers and photo editors, plus photo festivals, galleries and more. Enter at emerging.pdncontests.com, and see the other issues at issuu.com/eephotogroup.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 2.11.45 PM


Celebrate photo l.a.’s 25th Anniversary

Photo l.a. is celebrating its 25th year, kicking off Thursday, January 21 with an Opening Benefit Gala honoring Los Angeles artist James Welling. The art expo will run from January 22-24 at The Reef/LA Mart in Downtown Los Angeles.

Programming includes roundtable discussions, workshops, tours and  curated installations, and the air fair will bring together international galleries, museums, universities and nonprofit organizations to showcase work from the 19th century to now.

Visit www.photola.com to sign up for general admission ($20 in advance) or a three-day pass ($35 in advance). Tickets to the opening gala are $80 in advance, with proceeds benefiting Best Buddies.


Photo © James Welling/Regen Projects



Five Days in Haiti: Andrew Renneisen Captures Haiti Holy Week

By Brienne Walsh

When Andrew Renneisen was invited to see the nonprofit Hands Together in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, the photographer didn’t have a plan for a series in mind. The suggestion came from his former principal, Father Chris Beretta, of the all-boys Catholic high school, Salesianum School, in Wilmington, Delaware. Hands Together has been providing food, water, education and employment to residents in Cité  Soleil, Haiti’s largest and poorest slum, since 1986, and it is run by Father Tom Hagan, a priest of Father Beretta’s order.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - APRIL 5, 2015: A Catholic dancer looked out from St. AnneÕs Chapel during preparations for Easter Sunday mass in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on April 5, 2015. Despite the Catholic Church shrinking in Haiti, many Haitians rely on its support.

Pictured: A young Catholic dancer looks out from St. Anne’s Chapel during preparations for Easter Sunday mass in the Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on April 5, 2015. Photo © Andrew Renneisen

Renneisen booked his flight to Port-Au-Prince for Holy Week, the procession of ceremonies leading up to Easter, at the beginning of April 2015. “I knew Holy Week pretty well, having gone to a Catholic high school,” Renneisen explains. “I figured it would be an interesting time to be down there—and it really was.”

Renneisen says he has always been drawn to Haiti for its unique culture, including the prevalence of the practice of voodoo mixed with Catholicism. And as a documentary photographer interested in fomenting social change, the Caribbean country’s history of poverty and its recovery from the 2010 earthquake also engages him.

“I’ve taken photographs in some very impoverished cities in the United States, but Haiti looked like someone had dropped a bomb on Camden, New Jersey,” Renneisen explains. “The poverty was eye-opening.”

He realized that Cité Soleil was a place where he could tell a more in-depth story about a community—a story unlike those that feed the insatiable appetite of the catastrophe-consuming 24-hour news cycle. “The news media just grazes the surface of so many issues,” he says. “I want to go deeper and build relationships with the people I photograph.”

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - APRIL 3, 2015: A woman prays the stations of the cross on Good Friday outside of The Cathedral of Our Lady of The Assumption in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti on April 3, 2015.  The cathedral was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Despite the Catholic Church shrinking in Haiti, many Haitians rely on its support.

A woman prays on Good Friday outside of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Photo © Andrew Renneisen

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - APRIL 2, 2015: Haitian Catholic students on Holy Thursday at St. Annes Chapel in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on April 2, 2015. Despite the Catholic Church shrinking in Haiti, many Haitians rely on its support.

Haitian Catholic students sit during services on Holy Thursday at St. Anne’s Chapel. Photo © Andrew Renneisen

Unlike many of his peers, Renneisen, at 23, already has some freedom to tell stories he thinks are worthy of attention. After attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, he moved to New York City in June of 2014 to begin a four-month internship with The New York Times. During his time there, he covered local news in the five boroughs as well as events with a larger national scope, such as the funeral of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died while being arrested by an NYPD officer. Since his internship, Renneisen has shot more for the Times, and has also been published in The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, TIME and The Washington Post.

Renneisen has quickly built a name for himself as a photojournalist by covering major domestic news events—the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, the 2015 protests in Baltimore and, most recently, the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in June—often funding the trips himself. “There are so many issues in the United States that are deeply rooted in history,” he explains. “These stories are just so important and relevant.” Renneisen often books first and contacts editors while on location, asking to be put on assignment or have his work published. His bold strategy works. His photographs of the Baltimore protests ran in Mother Jones, and he wound up with an assignment for Getty News while on his trip to Haiti.

It is through Getty that Renneisen has landed his biggest break. In addition to shooting assignments for News, he was one of seven photographers chosen for the Getty Images Reportage roster of “Emerging Talent” last November.

It’s easy to see why Renneisen has found success through his work. Along with the visual impact inherent in his images, his photographs close the gap that usually exists between photographer and subject. While Renneisen comes from a place of privilege, one never gets the sense that he is merely a voyeur—or, even worse, exploitative. Rather, he makes connections with his subjects, no matter the difference in their socioeconomic or racial backgrounds.

On this trip, Renneisen built the foundation for such connections. He arrived in Port-Au-Prince the Thursday before Easter, and his only obligation was to take photographs of Cité Soleil’s Way of the Cross ceremony for Getty Images News. Otherwise, he was free to shoot what he wished. Father Tom Hagen, who is well respected in the slums (an estimated 80% of the population of Haiti is Catholic), introduced Renneisen to a group of men and women who acted as gatekeepers to the community. They served as translators and introduced him to subjects who otherwise might have been wary of being photographed.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - APRIL 3: Father Tom Hagan leads the procession of the Way of the Cross ceremony as it winds through the Cite Soleil neighborhood on April 3, 2015 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Way of the Cross Procession is a Good Friday tradition for many Catholics world wide. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Father Tom Hagan leads the procession of the Way of the Cross ceremony. Photo © Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - APRIL 5, 2015: Liturgical dancers bring the offering of the gifts during Easter mass at St. AnneÕs Chapel during Easter Sunday mass in the Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti on April 5, 2015.  The gifts included various fruits and vegetables which were placed on the alter.Despite the Catholic Church shrinking in Haiti, many Haitians rely on its support.

Liturgical dancers bring the offering of the gifts during Easter mass at St. Anne’s Chapel. Photo © Andrew Renneisen

Although the destruction of the 2010 earthquake is still apparent in the Hands Together community, what struck Renneisen most was the beauty of Holy Week. “I don’t know if there was one ‘wow’ moment,” he says. “The whole time, I was thinking, ‘Wow.’” Rituals he thought he was familiar with were imbued with a joy he had never experienced. He explains: “On Easter, I photographed young women bringing gifts to the altar. At home, our procession of the gifts is just part of Communion. But they came in and danced. It was absolutely stunning.”

Renneisen only spent five days in Port-Au-Prince, but he intends to return. “I showed my face in the community there,” he says of Cité Soleil. “So now I can go back and keep on building those relationships.” Despite the brief trip, his images paint a broad depiction of life in Haiti. Renneisen captured not only the religious rituals of Holy Week, but the everyday life of Haitians in vibrant color, celebrating the resilience of the community.  Renneisen often tells stories in black and white, but of this series, he says, “If you take away the color, you take away the story.”

For now, he doesn’t have specific plans for the Holy Week series as a whole, but his aim is always to keep making powerful work. He says, “If someone can look at one of my images and be like, ‘Wow,’ if I can change the mind or opinion of one person, then I’ve taken a successful image.”

Nikon D810, Nikon D750
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 G
AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm  f/2.8G ED
AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
15-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display
Editing Software:
Camera Raw
Adobe Photoshop CC


Lynsey Addario on Life as a Conflict Photographer

By Harrison Jacobs

 “I will be famous someday if you just let me in,” Lynsey Addario once told a wary security guard in Argentina.

She was 22 years old and trying to get into La Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential mansion, where Madonna was filming a movie. An editor at the Buenos Aires Herald had told her that if she got the photo, he’d hire her to freelance—her first newspaper job. She talked her way onto the press riser, and a veteran photojournalist lent her his 500mm lens so that she could snap a few photos of the pop icon.

From Addario's series "Syrian Refugees' Young Brides." Yasmeen, 16, sits with her baby in August 2014. Yasmeen returned home to live with her family at the Zatari refugee camp after leaving her abusive husband. © Lynsey Addario

From Addario’s series “Syrian Refugees’ Young Brides.” Yasmeen, 16, sits with her baby in August 2014. Yasmeen returned home to live with her family at the Zatari refugee camp after leaving her abusive husband. © Lynsey Addario

The younger Addario may not appear to have much in common with the battle-hardened, veteran photographer that exists today. Since 1995, she’s photographed Syrian refugees in Jordan, embedded with U.S. military in Afghanistan, followed rebel armies in Libya, and has been kidnapped twice. A quick search turns up her empathetic and often haunting series on The New York Times, National Geographic and TIME, as well as a wealth of interviews and first-hand accounts of her experiences.

Addario has never been reluctant to speak about the brutality she’s witnessed, the intersection of her professional and personal lives and her role as a leading female photojournalist in conflict zones.

Earlier this year, her memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, was published to critical acclaim. After a bidding war by major movie studios to bring her account to the silver screen, Warner Bros., Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lawrence snagged the honor. Looking back, it may seem inevitable that Addario would become a driving force in her field, winning awards including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize, and becoming a Nikon Ambassador, but at La Casa Rosada, she was just another scared twenty-something.

From the series "Baghdad, After the Storm." Pilgrims visit Al Kazimayiah Shrine, a Shiite holy site relatively unharmed by the years of violence. © Lynsey Addario

From the series “Baghdad, After the Storm.” Pilgrims visit Al Kazimayiah Shrine, a Shiite holy site relatively unharmed by the years of violence. © Lynsey Addario

Photography as a Hobby and Photography as a Profession

Throughout her youth, Addario had no idea that she would become a professional photographer.

“Photography was always a hobby for me,” Addario said in a phone interview with PDNedu. “I didn’t know any professional photographers or photojournalists. I didn’t understand that it was a job.”

She received her first camera, a Nikon FG, from her father at 13 and taught herself to shoot with a battered “How To” manual. Throughout her teenage years, she photographed nature and still lifes (she was too shy to photograph people, she claims), but never thought of photography as a profession.

During college, majoring in international relations at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Addario spent a year studying at the University of Bologna in Italy. Encouraged by the anonymity of a foreign country, Addario fell in love with street photography. She was ignited by Europe and the freedom to travel. The experience sparked her desire for a life abroad. At the time, she imagined herself as a diplomat or a translator.

After graduating, Addario moved to New York City and began to test the waters of professional photography, assisting a fashion photographer. She also worked at a SoHo shirt company, and at night, waitressed in Greenwich Village. When she had scrounged together a few thousand dollars, she followed her wanderlust to Buenos Aires, so she could earn money teaching English.

When she wasn’t teaching, she photographed the streets. She spent weeks at a recurring protest march against Argentina’s “Dirty War,” improving her photos every time. Her then-boyfriend urged her to freelance for the local English daily.

“I decided that I was going to beg the Buenos Aires Herald for a job. That’s what I did. I went back every day until they couldn’t turn me away. I was relentless,” Addario says.

For weeks, she did assignments that were never published. Then one day, she talked her way through the security of La Casa Rosada. Addario freelanced for the Herald for the rest of the year. Around the same time, Addario saw an exhibition by famed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Upon entering the exhibition, Addario says that she was “overcome by his images,” and calls it a pivotal moment in her life.

“[Photojournalism] was a way to tell a story,” writes Addario in her memoir. “It was the marriage of travel and foreign cultures and curiosity and photography.”

Getting a Foot in the Door

Addario returned to New York with a bundle of clips and a newfound vision. She scored a meeting with Joan Rosen, then Associated Press’ New York State photo director. As Addario tells it, Rosen still laughs about that meeting. Addario’s photos weren’t great, but Rosen put her on the freelancing circuit because Addario wouldn’t take no for answer.

Initially, Addario’s assignments were on spec, meaning she wasn’t paid unless they used her photos. But soon, she received assignments for everything from mayoral press conferences to New York Yankees’ ticker-tape parades.

At this point, Addario was learning about the sacrifices required to be a photojournalist. A personal life wasn’t easy. She never had money. She spent every waking hour waiting for the AP photo desk to call. She vacationed alone in Cuba, trying to find stories to photograph. On her 25th birthday, she convinced her father to give her a $15,000 loan to purchase photo equipment in lieu of the wedding sum her three sisters had received.

After three years freelancing for AP, Addario was offered her first big assignment. There had been a string of unsolved murders of transgender prostitutes in New York, and Addario was to photograph the women of the community.

Addario hung around the Meatpacking District every weekend without a camera until, eventually, one of the prostitutes invited her to her apartment in the Bronx. Addario brought chocolate-chip cookies and milk. Over the next five months, she gained access to private moments with the women that she’d never seen during a daily assignment.

“I learned that the more time you put into a story, the more people are comfortable with you and realize that you are just there to talk about their lives,” said Addario. “It set a precedent for all of my work.”

From the 2009 series, “Veiled Rebellion.” Afghan policewomen shoot rifles at a firing range outside Kabul. © Lynsey Addario

Heading Out into the Unknown

Addario still ached to spend quality time abroad, and in 2000, she pulled the trigger, contacting publications with correspondents in India to find freelance work.

“All I needed was one editor saying they would give me one assignment and, in my head, I’d be ready to stay,” Addario says. An editor at The Christian Science Monitor told her the news organization commissioned a lot of work from India. Addario took that as an offer. She hopped on a plane.

In New Delhi, Addario stayed with other journalists in dingy apartments and worked her way into an expatriate community. Her flat mate, the bureau chief of Dow Jones, recommended that she photograph women living under the Taliban in Afghanistan, since there were few, if any, female photojournalists there. Addario jumped right in.

“I didn’t get scared until right before I was about to go,” she recalls. “I had this realization of, ‘What am I doing? All these things could go wrong and there’s no embassy.’ No one knew what Afghanistan was before 9/11.”

Addario made three trips to Afghanistan under the Taliban. She learned how to take photographs in a place where photography is illegal and how to navigate a dangerous and strict culture. Though her photos were insightful, she had trouble selling them. No one was interested in the South Asian country before 9/11. She moved on to Mexico City with another journalist.

As her career progressed, life back home moved on. Her sister’s husband died of lung cancer; her mother was in a car accident that left her unconscious for three days. Closer still, her boyfriends came and went.

“This job doesn’t lend itself to a personal life,” Addario says. “It’s hard, but that’s the reality.”

History in the Making

Addario was in Mexico City on September 11, 2001. As newscasters talked about Afghanistan, the Taliban and terrorist training camps, Addario got on a plane to New York and flew east a week after that.

Through Yemen’s news agency, Saba, she was able to land freelance gigs from The New York Times, chasing stories that only someone with deep knowledge of the country could get.

“The period after 9/11 gave young photographers who hustled…an unparalleled opportunity to make a name for themselves. Those weeks in September launched an entire generation of journalists who would come of age during the War on Terror,” writes Addario.

As someone who had spent considerable time in a Muslim world that was now being vilified by Western journalists, Addario aimed to depict the region honestly.

“It’s easy to be dismissive of a culture that’s built on a different foundation than your own. I try to take those misconceptions and turn them upside down by showing the diversity of women’s lives in the Muslim world,” Addario says.

In her first photo essay for The New York Times Magazine, “Jihad’s Women,” she accessed female-only schools to interview and photograph devout Pakistani women, many of whom sympathized with the Taliban and felt the 9/11 attacks were justified. In the series, she humanized the women, rather than dismissing them as radicalized. It’s an approach she’s stuck to ever since.

To the Front Line and Back Again

As Addario tells it, she never intended to become a war photographer; she just went where the story was. But the story became the war.

After covering the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, she spent six years on the wars. In 2007, she embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan. According to her, those two months in the Korengal Valley were the closest she’s ever been to war.

During the weeks she and her journalist partner spent with the troops, Addario hiked tedious six-hour patrols up vertical terrain. At the end of the day, she caught the quiet moments—a soldier learning Russian, another reading recycled magazines and books. She made friends; she saw those friends take bullets and shrapnel. Some didn’t survive.

Addario has dozens of harrowing stories from the front lines, and has covered multiple conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria since, but her heart returns to the crises forgotten in the heat of war. In 2013, Addario traveled to Uganda to document women suffering from breast cancer. In Africa, where so many resources go toward the HIV epidemic, almost none go toward helping women with a very treatable cancer. Many simply view it as a death sentence.

“The stories that are not on the front line mean so much to me. Those stories don’t get enough attention,” says Addario.

To that end, she is constantly pitching editors on these “quieter stories,” among them maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, women who attempt suicide by self-immolation in Afghanistan and young brides in Syrian refugee camps. Addario says that the key to placing these stories is choosing the right publication and finding a link to major international news.

From the series "Unrest in Libya." Volunteer fighters at a base in Benghazi, Libya, March 1, 2011. © Lynsey Addario

From the series “Unrest in Libya.” Volunteer fighters at a base in Benghazi, Libya, March 1, 2011. © Lynsey Addario

The Changing Battlefield

Addario has also experienced first-hand the greatest danger for photojournalists today. She was kidnapped in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq, and again in March 2011, in Libya, along with three other New York Times journalists. For six days, she was bound, assaulted and transported. After her second kidnapping, Addario needed to modify the way she approached and photographed conflict.

“The front line isn’t black and white anymore,” Addario says. “Journalists are now a target in a way they never were before. It’s something I have come to live with over the last 15 years.”

But Addario is not one to shy away from the stories she wants to tell, and she persisted in traveling, even after she became pregnant with her son with her husband, Paul de Bendern. Against her doctor’s orders, she traveled to Gaza, Kenya, Senegal and Somalia, hiding her pregnancy from her editors at The New York Times (Addario later penned an essay for them about being pregnant in the field). This type of courage has marked Addario’s career. She never listened to what people told her she couldn’t do, whether as a woman, a foreigner or a photographer.

For those looking to break into photojournalism, Addario tells young photographers that it means a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s a struggle for everyone,” says Addario. “The advice I have is to be very focused, figure out the stories that you want to tell, be persistent and show editors your work. No one is going to come to you.”

Her pep talk can come off as harsh. Recently, a young photographer asked her how to get into the business. She told him to start traveling, shooting and contacting editors for assignments. When he told her that he didn’t want to travel much because of his girlfriend, Addario told him to break up with her.

“He thought I was insane,” says Addario. “I told him you have to decide what your priorities are. If you are not willing to make that sacrifice, there are 10,000 young photographers who will.”

Addario made that sacrifice multiple times, leaving behind her life back home for a life of adventure and danger. Recently, she’s found more balance. She’s married to another journalist, has a three-year-old son in London and makes sure that none of her assignments last longer than a couple of weeks. It’s a slice of hard-earned stability.




Nikon D4S, Nikon D810


AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/1.4D

AF NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4D

AF NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4D

AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF

Digital Memory: 

32 GB and 64 GB SanDisk cards

Editing Software: 

Photo Mechanic



Call For Entries: PDNedu Student Photo Contest

The 13th annual PDNedu Student Photo Contest is open for entries. For the first time, we’re offering a special price for early entrants. Enter a single or series for $15 through November 5.

Grand-prize winners (one per seven categories) will receive a Nikon DSLR camera, $150 to B&H and a portfolio review with an editor or judge. Judges this year include Michelle Bogre of Parsons The New School of Design, Emily Keegin of THE FADER, and Everard Williams of Acuity Press. All winners and honorable mentions will be published in the Spring 2016 issue of PDNedu.

Learn more and enter here.


Photo by Carli Choi, grand-prize winner of Travel/Landscape, 2015.


How to do PhotoPlus Expo for Free (yep, free!)


So you want to go to PhotoPlus Expo this year. It’s an enormous four-day conference and expo at the Javits Center in New York City—how do you pick what to do? Here’s how to maximize an Expo Only Pass (free for ages 17-25), which you can register for at www.photoplusexpo.com.

Do: Visit all of the booths on the show floor from Thursday, October 22 to Saturday, October 24. Lots of exhibitors are running special deals, offering coupons and raffling prizes for different photography products and services.

RSVP: Snag a spot at the Nikon/PDNedu Panel at the Show Floor Theater on October 22 at 4:00 pm. Nikon Ambassadors Joe McNally, Tamara Lackey and Cliff Mautner will be sharing things they wish they’d known before starting their photography careers. The talk is moderated by educator and Look3 festival executive director Mary Virginia Swanson. RSVP here!

Network: Before the trade show starts, register for the Next Gen event, taking place on Wednesday, October 21 from 3:00-4:30 pm for photographers ages 17-25. It’s a free event designed to help you plan the beginning of your career, providing information about how to get noticed by editors and how to get your foot in the door. Stay after to get a sneak peek of all the new photo gear hitting the market. Test Drive, taking place from 5:00-8:00 pm, will include a panel discussion about technology, followed by a product preview and networking event.

Learn: Listen to some of the most influential speakers in photography today at the three keynote presentations, October 22-24 from 12:30-1:30 pm. See Lauren Greenfield present work from her new exhibition, Wealth: The Influence of Affluence; see adventure photographer and filmmaker Jimmy Chin discuss his career and his documentary, Meru; and witness esteemed street photographers coming together to discuss how technology has affected the genre and its future in photography.


Studying the State of the American Dream: Lauren Greenfield at PhotoPlus Expo

By Terry Sullivan

For the better part of 25 years, renowned photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has been studying manifestations of the American Dream by primarily focusing on youth culture, gender, consumerism and the influence of the media. Next year, she will present her documentation in a mammoth 432-page retrospective book, titled Wealth: The Influence of Affluence, published by Phaidon. At the same time, her work will be included in an ambitious museum exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, with a subsequent opening at the International Center of Photography in New York City. This month, Greenfield will present work from Wealth during a special keynote at the 2015 PhotoPlus Expo Conference & Expo.

Mijanou and friends from Beverly Hills High School spending their Senior Beach Day at Will Rogers State Beach in Los Angeles. Mijanou won the title of "best physique" at Beverly Hills High.

PICTURED: Mijanou and friends from Beverly Hills High School spending their Senior Beach Day at Will Rogers State Beach in Los Angeles. Mijanou won the title of “best physique” at Beverly Hills High. / Photo © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE, from Wealth: The Influence of Affluence.

Greenfield has been exploring similar themes since her first body of work, Fast Forward, which was published in 1997. In that monograph, she examined how Los Angeles youth in the early ‘90s were affected by money, fame and the media. Since that time, Greenfield has gone on to create several other monographs as well as documentary films.

“I’d been looking at consumer culture, and the influence of materialism on values,” Greenfield says. “[Then] I went on other journeys, working on books like Girl Culture and Thin.” But in 2008, when the financial crisis happened, she explains, “I realized that all of my work was connected in a way that I hadn’t understood. And that the crisis in some ways was a morality tale of the work.”

It was a documentary film, not a monograph, that led her to this realization. “I made a movie at that time called The Queen of Versailles, which is about a family who tries to build a 90,000-square-foot house,” she recalls. When completed, it would be one of the largest homes in America, inspired by the French Château of Versailles,  which was expanded to its sprawling size in the 17th century by King Louis XIV. “[But] the financial crisis turned this story of this rags-to-riches billionaire’s dream into a morality tale about excess and overreach,” she explains. The Queen of Versailles represents the mistakes made at all levels that led to the financial crisis, she adds, but also serves as an allegory for the bigger, broader story of how we all aspire to wealth. “It’s about how materialism has become part of our everyday culture and part of our identities.”

Yvonne Xue, 44, board chairman general manager of Shanghai Si Tong Cable Industry and vice board chairman of Shanghai Huiyang Industry Company, photographed in her designer home in Shanghai. Yvonne’s bedroom is decorated with a complete Versace bedroom set., 2005.

PICTURED: Yvonne Xue, board chairman general manager of Shanghai Si Tong Cable Industry and vice board chairman of Shanghai Huiyang Industry Company, photographed in her designer home in Shanghai. / Photo © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE, from Wealth: The Influence of Affluence.

Around the time she completed the film, Greenfield broadened the scope of her focus. “After the financial crisis, I realized that it was also an international story,” Greenfield says. “I started looking at China and Moscow, and how capitalism and materialism were playing out in communist and post-communist societies.” Although the book focuses on the American Dream,  it also includes stories that extend beyond our nation’s borders, to China, India, Ireland and Russia, among other countries, divided into 15 chapters.

“It’s a big, ambitious story. I’m trying to pull together work that I’ve done in a lot of different worlds,” Greenfield explains. She says she scanned 10,000 images from film alone, sifting between those and digital work from 2006 on. There’s a large amount of text to be edited and written, as well, with 230 interviews, captions and an opening essay about her journey.

Models Lindsey Wixon, Keke Lindgard, Bregje Heinen, Anastasia Kuznetsova, Liu Wen, and Mirte Maas wait backstage for their turns on the runway at the Prada Spring 2010 show for Milan Fashion Week.

PICTURED: Models Lindsey Wixon, Keke Lindgard, Bregje Heinen, Anastasia Kuznetsova, Liu Wen, and Mirte Maas wait backstage for their turns on the runway at the Prada Spring 2010 show for Milan Fashion Week.

“[It’s] important to note that the project isn’t just about photography,” she says. “The interviews have always been an important part of the process. And for the museum shows, there are short films and feature films.” The Annenberg Space for Photography is also commissioning a new original film, which will premiere at the exhibition.

One aspect of this project that’s sure to appeal to many photographers and filmmakers is how imaging and audio technology have changed during the span of this project. “It covers a lot of changes in the medium,” Greenfield says. “I started in black and white and then went to chrome film. But in 2006, I went to digital and never went back. Also, I started with audio using a crappy tape recorder, and then went to a better NPR-style recorder. Then, I went from standard-def video to high-def video and went on to shoot in 4K. We’ve just lived through a time of enormous change.”

The timing of Wealth may be significant as well. “This is going to come out in the fall of 2016,” Greenfield says, “as we’re in the midst of most expensive presidential election that we’ve ever seen. So we’re seeing wealth have a huge influence in our political system,” particularly in terms of the important sway the so-called “One Percent” will have on both the election, and more broadly, the culture as a whole.

But the project doesn’t specifically address U.S. elections or the influence of the One Percent on the government. In fact, Greenfield says, it’s not really about having lots of money either. “The book,” she says, “is not about being rich or about wealth. The book is really about how everybody wants to be rich. It’s about our values and about aspiration, which sometimes comes from deprivation, too. It’s not really about having stuff. It’s about wanting stuff.”


Lauren Greenfield

PhotoPlus Expo attendees can catch Greenfield’s Canon-sponsored keynote, “Fast Forward to the American Dream,” on Thursday, October 22 from 12:30 to 1:30 pm.


Emerging Photographer submission deadline approaching!

If you’d like to get your work in print, consider our submission-based sister magazine, Emerging Photographer. Each issue, EP features the work of a new group of photographers (five years or less professional experience is the only requirement), selected by a jury of EP, PDN and Rangefinder editors. The magazine is polybagged with 5,000 copies of PDN, targeting industry creative subscribers. Another 5,000 copies are distributed throughout the year at photo festivals and events that have included MoPLA and Photo LA. 

Submissions are $20 for a series of 3-10 images until October 1st, then $30 up until the October 13 final deadline.

Enter at emerging.pdncontests.com and check out the digital edition on issuu.com. The past two issues have been a “featured pick” on Issuu, garnering over 32,000 combined unique reads.

"Shuttlecocked," from Emerging Photographer Summer 2015. Photo by Justin Tsucalas

“Shuttlecocked,” from Emerging Photographer Summer 2015. Photo by Justin Tsucalas.