Lauren Greenfield Comes Full Circle With BEAUTY CULTURE

While BEAUTY CULTURE continues to break attendance records here at the Annenberg Space for Photography, we thought now would be a good time as any to publish a post on one of featured photographers, Lauren Greenfield and the documentary film, also titled BEAUTY CULTURE, that accompanies the show. The 30-minute film was directed by the award-winning photographer herself.

Produced by her husband and producing partner, Frank Evers, Greenfield filmed the documentary over the course of several months in Los Angeles, New York and Paris. Her intent was to create a film that focused on the sociological and psychological perceptions of beauty from a cross-cultural viewpoint.

Regarding her work on BEAUTY CULTURE Greenfield says, "A lot of the things I photograph are interconnected: from the young girls and the kind of precocious sexualization of young girls, to the vanity of teenagers and the kind of struggle to establish your identity as a teenager, to women and older women facing the challenge of getting older in a youth-obsessed culture. So this project, BEAUTY CULTURE, allowed me to kind of bring the work full circle and look at all aspects."

The film has been met with resounding praise from many guests here at the photography space citing Los Angeles--with its Hollywood machine and incessant promotion of the billion-dollar cosmetics industry--as an ideal location for a film addressing warped ideals of beauty.

BEAUTY CULTURE is certainly not Greenfield's first foray into filmmaking. Her documentary Thin premiered on HBO in 2006, also screening at the Sundance Film Festival. A film dealing with eating disorders of young women, Thin went on to earn Greenfield an Emmy nomination for Best Director of Non-Fiction Programming. Her follow-up doc kids + money, also broadcast on HBO, won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the AFI Film Festival among other honors.

The film, which features interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis, Tyen, Crystal Renn and many others, screens throughout the day at the Space. Make sure you come see it before the exhibit closes next month.

As for Greenfield, she will return to the Space as our IRIS Nights lecturer on Thursday, October 13, in what is sure to be a standing-room only event!

Story Time with Mark Laita

It was my first week on the job interning for the Annenberg Foundation and already I was sent to cover one of our IRIS Nights lectures, a favorite among dedicated fans.

That night Mark Laita spoke about his new photobook, Created Equal, a collection of black and white photo diptychs contrasting the portraits of everyday Americans by putting, for example, a picture of Baptist minister next to members of the Ku Klux Klan or nuns next to prostitutes. The inspiration for the project is incredible: Laita left behind his polished life in the advertising world to find the real America he grew up with, the one he wanted to make sure the world would never forget.

But what stuck out to me was not necessarily his professional or captivating photos (which are absolutely incredible) but the way he engaged us in the process.  I found myself leaning forward, completely engrossed in every word, waiting on the edge of my seat for the next description of the photo pair.

His tales of having breakfast with the Hell's Angels, coercing an Amish man into being photographed or becoming best buds with some weed farmers had me and the rest of the audience rolling in laughter. It felt like you were getting to know his subjects personally and the portraits became more than pictures, they were real life people who were living in the same country as myself.   But that was the point.  He wanted to elevate the raw and rugged America to a place of glamor and importance.

"I was trying to find hidden gems that are normally overlooked," said Laita during his presentation, "It's not about finding these grand/great people, it's about finding the ordinary people and making them look great."

Later someone from the audience asked him what statement he was trying to make with comparing nuns to prostitutes.  Laita just smiled and said he meant to pass no judgment; he simply wanted to ask the question, "How then can two girls grow up in the same county and have two completely different fates?"

And from where I was sitting it was mission accomplished for every picture I saw I asked myself the same question. There are two men who look strikingly similar and I asked myself so how is it that one became a CEO and the other a janitor?   

Learn more about Mark on his official website.

(All lecture images by Unique for the Space)

Coming Soon At IRIS Nights: Amber Valletta

Here at the Annenberg Space for Photography, we've had the great fortune of many incredible photographers lecturing at our IRIS Nights for our BEAUTY CULTURE exhibit. One of our guest lecturers on Thursday, November 3rd will provide her own unique insight from her career in front of the camera. Model, actor and long-time humanitarian Amber Valletta (seen above during a visit to the Space) started modeling as a teenager quickly establishing a high-profile career by landing her first Vogue cover on the eve of her 19th birthday. Her success as a model would soon transition to television and film with Valletta taking over co-hosting duties from Cindy Crawford on MTV's House of Style followed by acting roles in Hitch and the current ABC show Revenge. Her increasing fame also provided an opportunity to work with multiple charitable organizations that focused on Valletta's childhood interest in social relations.

One of her most recent fashion spreads for the September issue of W Magazine has also been one of her most controversial. In an industry where youth and beauty are usually a prerequisite for success, Valletta inhabits a role in "One for the Ages" spanning 12 decades of life with a final lasting image of a decrepit, yet intimidating elderly woman of the future. Because aging is often the death knell for many models, the actual intent of the photo shoot is a rarity. In the issue, Valletta said of the layout.

"You see women who are getting older, and they're still thought of as powerful and sexy and sensual. Ten years ago that wasn't talked about nearly as much...My best advice for aging gracefully is probably going to be more of a spiritual or a psychological answer, which is just trying to find peace in life and being happy and sharing that with other people. Ultimately the insides never change. The outsides will always. And it's transcending that that I think makes a beautiful life."

We couldn't agree more, Amber! If you don't have a chance to see Valletta along with photographer Amanda de Cadenet at our IRIS Night on November 3rd, we hope you'll still find an opportunity to check out BEAUTY CULTURE here at the Annenberg Space for Photography until November 27th. You can check out her spread in W, shot by Steven Klein, here.

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Make Me Beautiful


Matthew Rolston, an icon in fashion photography, came to entertain us at the IRIS Nights lecture yesterday. He also brought his long time friend, journalist Merle Ginsberg. Her questions and insight into Matthew's work helped reveal exciting information about his unique body of work.

Rolston confessed that he didn't see himself as simply a photographer or director but rather an 'idea' person, wanting to extend his talents into all areas of the creative world.

Rolston also explained his process of creation as collaborative and told stories of working with Anna Nicole Smith or Christina Aguilera. Aguilera actually came to him a year in advance in order to plan a photo idea for her upcoming album release.


Rolston then provided insight to his role in the industry and his vision for expanding the cannon of beauty. "For me photography is worship." said Rolston, "Human desire is about genetics - survival. The things we consider to be beautiful...go to the core of survival."

In a surprise turn of events the two guest speakers invited the entire audience to join them in a drink, outside on the plaza at our first IRIS Nights complimentary cocktail party.

Needless to say it was a glamorous night out with the Annenberg Foundation and two hundred of Rolston's closest brand new friends

Thank you Mr. Rolston for a lovely evening.

Lauren Greenfield Returns To IRIS Nights

If you're one of the nearly 50,000 patrons who has visited Beauty Culture since its May opening, we're betting there's a good chance you've departed the Space electrified by filmmaker and featured photographer Lauren Greenfield's documentary of the same name. We were thrilled to learn more about Greenfield's career during her recent IRIS Nights lecture at the Photography Space, as well as the inspirations behind her photographic and filmed accomplishments.

Greenfield was all smiles as she and her husband (and documentary producer) Frank Evers, arrived at the Space. This was Greenfield's second IRIS Nights lecture. She was also part of the L8S ANG3LES lineup!

Just before showtime, IRIS Nights attendees wrapped themselves all the way through the exhibit hall anticipating the opening of our gallery seating for Greenfield's lecture.

One of Greenfield's first images in her retrospective was of Las Vegas showgirl Anne-Margaret. A note taped to the entertainer's mirror reads "I approve of myself." This is one of many Greenfield images involving women that address issues dealing with self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Greenfield also spoke about an image taken at a beauty pageant for southern belles. The photo captures the contestants in traditional gowns and poses, but juxtaposing these traditions--the girls also flash garter belts on all of their legs.

Greenfield talked the above image in which a young model walked down the street, while being ogled by three passing men - one of them a hard-hat wearing construction worker. While the audience laughed at Greenfield's retelling of the story behind the picture, she joked that we may be responding with the laughter, but the men's wives probably had a far less humorous response!

Greenfield's work obviously inspires much discussion with audience members and she was happy to address a number of questions from lecture attendees regarding the psychological and sociological issues behind her images.

Guest perused copies of Greenfield's best-selling and award-winning books including Girl Culture, Fast Forward and Thin before meeting her for a book-signing in our photography library.

Visitors had an incredible opportunity to chat one-on-one with Greenfield during the book signing.

Meanwhile, Evers engages guests in conversation while waiting in the book-signing queue.

Greenfield happily greeted fans as several photographers maneuver through the crowd to capture the best angle. Despite the often intense and emotional images that she captures, Greenfield and her fans had a delightful evening and we certainly did too! Thank you so much, Lauren!

You can watch the lecture on our site by clicking here.

(All lecture images by Unique for the Space)

Intoxicating Beauty

It was an incredible privilege to go to Andrew Southam's IRIS Nights lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography. Southam, an Australian born beauty photographer, spoke with such genuine humility and introspection that it was hard not to fall in love him and his work.

He had such a sweet demeanor that when Southam admitted to a lifelong obsession with female beauty and being 'intoxicated by the fun of it all', the audience seemed to beam.

Throughout his talk Southam illustrated remarkable self-awareness describing himself as a "boy who spent his life, quite literally, on one knee in front of beauty."

He even opened up about sometimes feeling flustered in front of such direct sexuality.

But the core of his honesty was exposed when describing June Browne Newton and her husband Helmut Newton. Southam revered Helmut and became friends with June Newton after her husband's death. She continues to profoundly impact his life and his professional career to this day.

Southam also answered how and why questions regarding his famous techniques. "I am a student of lighting," confessed Southam when describing how he avoided using Photoshop or digital enhancing mechanisms.

"I always wanted to make my subjects look beautiful. I like people to look like they would on their best day," Southam explained when asked why he developed his unique style.

The sincerity of the lecture had the audience complimenting and thanking Southam for such a wonderful job. But, at the end of the day, he confessed that his main desire is to stay true to himself.

"You can only be who you are," said Southam in a statement to sum up the evening. And for both the aspiring photographers and non-photographers, it was probably his best piece of advice.

After the lecture Southam mingled with the crowd including his friends and peers, Joe Pugliese and Art Streiber.

For more information on Andrew Southam and his new photo series click here

Viewfinder

We have heard a lot of great chatter amongst our Annenberg Space for Photography attendees. After compiling some quotes, listening to what visitors thought about the Space and our lecturers, here is what they had to say:

The Andrew Southam lecture

"Loved it! It was so nice to listen to someone talk about art and communicate it so well... instead of just telling stories he got into how he did it and why." "I love the space. It is such a dream for photographers to not have to pay a lot to see such wonderful photos. I need to come and spend a couple hours here."
(Amy Cantrell, photographer, attending 2nd IRIS Nights lecture)


"It was really inspiring. I loved that he was so real about everything."
(Madison Enloe, aspiring photographer, attending her 2nd IRIS Nights lecture)

"[The Space] is an extraordinary gift to LA for both professional photographers and non-photographers. It allows them to interact. We are really gifted to have Annenberg here. Everything is really on the mark."
(Chad Slattery, regular attendee)


"I loved it! I am a non-photographer, unlike my husband. But that is the gift. There are a range of subjects and you don't have to be a photographer to love it - just a human being."
(Donna Lee Slattery, non-photographer, regular attendee)

The next time you're here tell Viewfinder what you think.

IRIS Nights Sneak Peek: Alex Kuczynski

As we enter our final weeks of BEAUTY CULTURE here at the Annenberg Space for Photography, one of the most frequently asked questions from visitors who watch our feature documentary continues to be "Who is that woman in the pearls and blue dress?" The woman whose statements have left such a lasting impression on visitors is our November 17th IRIS Night lecturer, journalist and author, Alex Kuczynski.

Since Kuczynski will grace us with her presence, along with photographer (and previous IRIS Night lecturer) Susan Anderson, during our final IRIS Night lecturers during the run of BEAUTY CULTURE, it's a great time to learn more about "the woman in the pearls."

The ambition that would ultimately lead to Kuczynski's success as an award-winning author and reporter appears to run in the family. Her father, Pedro, was a candidate in last year's Presidential election in Peru. John Casey, The National Book Award Winner and novelist, is her maternal uncle. Kuczynski, however, isn't interested in resting on family laurels. Carving out a name for herself as a reporter for The New York Times, she took it one step further and authored an uninhibited, behind-the-scenes examination of the cosmetic surgery industry in her book, Beauty Junkies.

Beauty Junkies is a revealing view at what is now a demographic-defying $15 billion fixation on youth and physical vitality. In a recent article for Harper's Bazaar, Kuczynski sums up the obsession saying, "The pressure to stay young, and to remain young looking, is at a fever pitch in America. Those seeking the holy grail of youth are driving up the number of cosmetic procedures—with Americans getting more than 13 million of them every year—in their quest for a smooth forehead and taut cheekbones."

In her book and featured role in the BEAUTY CULTURE documentary, Kuczynski readily admits to experimenting with a few cosmetic procedures in her 20s and 30s, but ultimately realized that "Living out west [in Idaho] has made me release all the ideas I used to have about success, including the quest for that perfect age-defying forehead. In fact, I've discovered that the more I give up, the greater the reward. I stopped trying to think I could do it all—and in part, I was forced to....you can't worry about your hair or your skin because the one practicing dermatologist in our town doesn't even do Botox."

We hope you'll be joining us for our final IRIS Night lecture with "the woman in the pearls" Alex Kuczynski and High Glitz photographer, Susan Anderson on November 17th for what is certain to be an entertaining and very enlightening conversation. If not, you'll still have a few days to visit BEAUTY CULTURE one more time before its closing day on Sunday, November 27th. We hope to see you soon here at the Space!

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