A photographer spent 25 years documenting rich people -- meet some of her most memorable subjects

  • Rich people and wealth inequality are major themes in photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield’s work.
  • Last year she released the book “Generation Wealth” that pulls together the past 25 years of her work, and includes interviews and insights from both herself and her subjects.
  • In January, Greenfield debuted her documentary film by the same name at Sundance Film Festival, with a wider release planned for July 2018.

Award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has been photographing and interviewing rich people since the early 1990s. After attending college at Harvard, Greenfield returned to her home in Los Angeles and began documenting youth culture.

At that time, she didn’t realise that she was photographing the beginning of “a period of rampant materialism and wealth obsession,” as economist and sociologist Juliet Schor writes in the introduction of “Generation Wealth,” Greenfield’s book that was released last year with Phaidon. Her subjects back then included a 12-year-old Kim Kardashian and other teens in Bel-Air, Los Angeles.

Since then, Greenfield’s work has expanded internationally, examining mega-mansions, extravagant bottle service at nightclubs, a 24-karat solid gold toilet, America’s obsession with plastic surgery, and much more.

“What I learned from many of [my subjects] is that chasing wealth is unending and ultimately unsatisfying. As the former Wall Street trader Sam Polk recognises, it’s an addiction like any other, and the more you have, the more you want and the more you think you need,” wrote Greenfield in the introduction of her book.

This April, Greenfield debuted the documentary film “Generation Wealth” which brings her work in the book onto the big screen with in-depth interviews with many of her subjects, and examines wealth inequality. The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival, and is being released more broadly in select theatres this July.

Ahead, a look inside the book “Generation Wealth” with captions written by Greenfield, as well as more information about the upcoming documentary.

“Limo Bob, 49, the self-proclaimed ‘Limo King,’ wears thirty-three pounds of gold and a full-length fur coat given to him by Mike Tyson. His fleet of limousines, including a 100-foot-long Cadillac, are outfitted with crystal chandeliers, jacuzzis, and stripper poles.”

Lauren GreenfieldLimo Bob in his office, Chicago, 2008.

Generation Wealth

“Xue Qiwen, 43, in her Shanghai apartment, decorated with furniture from her favourite brand, Versace, 2005. In 1994 Xue started a company that sells industrial cable and has since run four more. She is a member of three golf clubs, each costing approximately $US100,000 to join.”

Lauren GreenfieldXue Qiwenin, 43, Shanghai, 2005

Generation Wealth

“Christina, 21, a Walmart pharmacy technician, en route to her wedding in Cinderella’s glass coach, drawn by six miniature white ponies and with bewigged coachman, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.”

Lauren GreenfieldChristina, 21, en route to her wedding in Cinderella’s glass coach, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, 2013.

Generation Wealth

“A VIP guest ‘makes it rain’ with hundreds of dollar bills on a sold-out Saturday night at Marquee, routinely ranked as one of the top-grossing nightclubs in the United States, Las Vegas.”

Lauren GreenfieldMarquee nightclub, Las Vegas, 2012.

Generation Wealth

“Ilona’s sweater was produced for her in a custom colour by her friend Andrey Artyomov, whose Walk of Shame fashion line is popular among the wives of oligarchs.”

Lauren GreenfieldIlona with her daughter, Michelle, 4, Moscow, 2012.

Generation Wealth

The “Generation Wealth” documentary film premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival’s Doc Premieres section. Eden Wood, a then six-year old child beauty pageant star, was interviewed and photographed by Greenfield in 2011.

Lauren Greenfield/Amazon StudiosStill from the preview of ‘Generation Wealth.’

The film was produced by Amazon Studios, along with Candescent Films, and Evergreen Pictures.

Its run time is 107 minutes, and covers plastic surgery culture, Manhattan socialites, shopping addictions, sexual capital, and how the top 1% spend their money.

It also takes a look at the 2008 financial crisis, and those effected by it.

The film also acts as a career retrospective for Greenfield, who released another award-winning documentary back in 2012 titled “The Queen of Versailles.” The film revolved around Florida billionaires David and Jackie Siegel before, during, and after the 2008 financial crisis. Here, Jackie poses for Greenfield.

The documentary will be released more widely in theatres on July 20, 2018, and the book is available now.

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