Lauren Greenfield Interview: A Rigorous View



Acclaimed American photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has turned her lens to modern Western culture. Watch her talk about how anthropology paved the way for her prizewinning documentaries, and about the commercial spot that went viral and started a movement of empowerment.

In the 1990s, Greenfield, who has a background in visual anthropology, transferred her interest in culture to the place she had grown up in, L.A.: “Maybe that was worthy of the same of the same kind of rigorous study that anthropologists and photographers give to foreign cultures.” In 2014 she made the commercial spot for Always ‘Like a Girl’ (#likeagirl) (2014), where girls and boys, men and women, were asked what “like a girl” meant to them, e.g. “to run like a girl.” She describes this as a social experiment where it soon became apparent that for most the phrase was an insult: “There was something so powerful in seeing that realisation of the people in the spot, and I think it allows the audience to have the same realisation. That something that they thought was just a throwaway insult was actually disempowering to half the planet.” The effect of people sharing that spot, she continues, was that words matter and that people can change them, which started a whole movement of empowerment that she had not seen coming: “We do this work as documentarians, but there’s always a little bit of a desire to be a changemaker.”

Lauren Greenfield (b. 1966) is an American artist, documentary photographer and documentary filmmaker, who is considered a preeminent chronicler of youth culture, fashion, media, wealth beauty and consumer culture. Her documentaries include ‘Thin’ (2006), ‘Beauty CULture’ (2011), ‘The Queen of Versailles’ (2012) and ‘Generation Wealth’ (2018). In 2014 she directed a commercial spot for Always called #likeagirl, which went viral on the internet and won multiple awards, including the primetime commercial Emmy Award in 2015. Greenfield is also the author of photographic books such as ‘THIN’ (2006), ‘Girl Culture’ (2002), ‘Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood’ (2002) and ‘Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth’ (2017). Her photography is found in major collections such as LACMA in Los Angeles, SFMoMA in San Francisco, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington. Among many other awards, Greenfield is the recipient of the Sundance Film Festival’s Directing Award, US Documentary 2012 (for ‘The Queen of Versailles’), the Grierson Award for best documentary shown at the BFI London Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Independent Festival of Boston (both for ‘THIN’).

Lauren Greenfield was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at her studio in Los Angeles in November 2018. In the video, extracts are shown from ‘Like a Girl’ (2014) by Lauren Greenfield. Courtesy of the artist.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard

Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner

Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

Cover photo: Still from ‘Like a Girl’ (2014) by Lauren Greenfield

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea fonden

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