Art | October 17, 2017 5:00 am

Photographer Explores Our Obsession With Wealth

Lauren Greenfield's 'Generation Wealth' details our desire to be rich at any cost.

Generation Wealth
A selected VIP guest “makes it rain” with hundreds of one dollar bills on a sold-out Saturday night at Marquee Las Vegas. The club uses this unique technique to set the mood and pump up the crowd. Marquee relies heavily on pushing premium champagne and liquor bottle service to a clientele eager to spend money. The pairing of high-caliber DJs with the over-the-top extravagance of the club is part of what makes this club the highest grossing nightclub in America. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

Photographer Lauren Greenfield has been documenting the shift in values and in the American Dream for the last 25 years. Her series Generation Wealth provides and insightful investigation into the pursuit of wealth, and its material trappings and elusive promises of happiness, and how it has evolved since the early 1990s.

Greenfield reveals stories of students, single parents, and families overwhelmed by crushing debt, yet determined to purchase luxury goods and experiences far beyond their reach. The series was primarily focused on American stories but also includes perspectives from Ireland, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, China and Russia.

The visual record and thematic investigation of wealth obsession features over 200 photographs, candid interviews, and documentary film footage. Weaving together stories about affluence, beauty, body image, competition, corruption, fantasy, and excess, Greenfield’s project questions the distance between value and commodity in a globalized consumerist culture.

“This is about the desire 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,” says Greenfield.

Generation Wealth, orginally shown at the Annenberg Space for Photography, is currently on exhibit at ICP Museum through Jan. 7, 2018 and was recently published through Phaidon.

Here’s a look at the series below.

Generation Wealth
A selected VIP guest “makes it rain” with hundreds of one dollar bills on a sold-out Saturday night at Marquee Las Vegas. The club uses this unique technique to set the mood and pump up the crowd. Marquee relies heavily on pushing premium champagne and liquor bottle service to a clientele eager to spend money. The pairing of high-caliber DJs with the over-the-top extravagance of the club is part of what makes this club the highest grossing nightclub in America. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
Crenshaw High School girls selected by a magazine to receive
“Oscar treatment” for a prom photo shoot take a limo to the event with their dates, Culver City, California, 2001. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
Film director and producer Brett Ratner (right), 29, and Russell Simmons, 41, a businessman and cofounder of hip-hop label Def Jam, at L’Iguane restaurant, St. Barts, 1998. Few establishments on the island accepted credit cards, and visitors often carried large amounts of cash. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
Xue Qiwen, 43, in her Shanghai apartment, decorated with furniture from her favorite brand, Versace, 2005. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
“Limo Bob”, the self-proclaimed “Limo King”, holds the record for owning the longest limousine in the world. Bob builds, sells and rents out limos in his hometown of Chicago, IL, and has created a fleet that includes the record-breaking 100-foot limo, and another made from a Boeing 727. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
© Lauren Greenfield/VII 2008
Generation Wealth
Jackie and friends with Versace handbags at a private opening at the Versace store, Beverly Hills, California, 2007. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
Ilona, a photographer and former model originally from Latvia, in the mezzanine library of her home, which so far contains only copies of a self-published book of her fashion photographs, Moscow, 2012. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
Christina Alaniz, soon to be Mrs. Torres, and her parents take Cinderella’s glass coach to the ceremony, the grand method of transportation Christina chose as part of her Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding package. Disney was a big part of their family vacations when Christina was growing up, but when they fell into a financial slump; they were unable to visit for several years. This time, Christina, who is financially independent, brought her parents, which was very special for her to give them that gift. (Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE/Courtesy Phaidon)
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Generation Wealth
(Phaidon)