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Xue Qiwen, 43, in her Shanghai apartment, decorated with furniture from her favorite brand, Versace, 2005. Photo courtesy of ICP. 

The International Center of Photography’s newest exhibition, GENERATION WEALTH by Lauren Greenfield, examines the pervasive influence of money, status, and celebrity in America and abroad through photography, oral history, and film. 

Greenfield’s sweeping project weaves together stories of affluence, beauty, body image, competition, corruption, fantasy, and excess to question the distance between value and commodity in today’s global consumerist culture.

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. Photo courtesy of ICP. 

The standards that have been presented to us from the largest commercial industries ranging from entertainment, fashion, to banking and real estate, have informed and shaped peoples behaviors regarding spending and desires to be rich. Greenfield’s work represents three decades of rampant materialism and wealth obsession beginning in the 1990s in her study of youth culture in Los Angeles, covering the 2008 global financial crisis in Ireland, Iceland, and Dubai, and what wealth looks like today.

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. Photo courtesy of ICP. 

While issues surrounding consumerist culture can be seen all over the world, the showing of this project in New York City in particular is appropriate given the city’s own struggle with affordability and excess.

Jackie and friends with Versace handbags at a private opening at the Versace store, Beverly Hills, California, 2007. Photo courtesy of ICP. 

It is important to note that this 25-year documentary inquiry Greenfield calls “the influence of affluence,” is not a showcase about the 1 percent. Rather, the exhibition tells the story of the “aspiration for wealth and how that has become a driving force-and the same time an increasingly unrealistic goal-for individuals from all classes of society.” This chronicle of the American Dream in the 21st century questions its sustainability.

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. Photo by Lauren Greenfield, courtesy of ICP. 

After editing more than half a million photographs with curator Trudy Wilner Stack, creating over 50,000 new ones, and conducting over 500 interviews, Lauren Greenfield presents her exhibition of nearly 200 photographs, numerous first-person interviews, and documentary film footage to the general public at the International Center of Photography on Wednesday, September 20.

The exhibition will be on view through January 7, 2018. The ICP is located at 250 Bowery, New York, NY 10012.

Next, see Vintage NYC Photography: NYC’s Public Baths and be sure to check out 18 Art Installations and Exhibits Not to Miss in NYC in September 2017.

 ICP, photography

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