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Girl Culture Hardcover – September 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811837904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811837903
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.8 x 12.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Greenfield's stark photographs of girls and young women doing everything from practicing Tae-Bo in Beverly Hills to performing lap dances in Las Vegas aren't for the faint of heart. But the collection is so hard to put down that it's not destined to languish on a coffee table, either. Images of teenagers at weight loss camp or getting ready for a quinceanera (a 15th birthday ritual in the Hispanic community) come to life thanks to frank, first-person monologues from the girls themselves. A photograph of Erin, 24, getting "blind-weighed" (with her back to the scale) at an eating disorder clinic in Coconut Creek, Fla., is accompanied by this hair-raising commentary: "I'm known for my eating disorder. It's my identity.... My nickname is Itty-Bitty, so what am I going to be without it? It's what makes me special. So I would just be ordinary without it. And for me, that's hard to admit." Although much of the text focuses on typical (but still depressing) teen issues such as peer pressure and drug abuse, readers should hang in there for glimmers of optimism and even brilliance. Jessica, 20, a member of Stanford University's women's swim team, says, "I think any female athlete has a sense of being kind of like Wonder Woman. You are able to do things that are a little closer to superhuman than normal girls. There's a little bit of Wonder Woman in everyone." Indeed, Greenfield's unflinching portraits, which will be at New York's Pace/MacGill Gallery this fall and will travel to the West Coast, are a testimony to that spirit.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

American girlhood ain't what it used to be. Maybe there are pockets of girls out there who still revel in the "Little House on the Prairie" books or dress up their dolls or run lemonade stands. But they aren't catching the eyes of sociologists, who seem to agree that girls today are growing up in a hyper-sexualized peer pressure-cooker — and they don't show up in "Girl Culture," a new book from photographer Lauren Greenfield (Chronicle Books; $40.00). Even the youngest girls in Greenfield's gritty, gorgeous portraits are far too busy dressing up like Barbie dolls to play with them.
A gentle warning: this is not a book for parents desperate to maintain their naivete about what's happening in their daughters' lives: these accounts show you more than you've ever imagined about the sexual and social habits of girls. Greenfield's photographs are accompanied by narratives from the girls themselves; the stories they tell, which are unflinchingly raw and honest, are often difficult to read. No matter how well you think you understand what goes on in adolescent life, it can be shocking to read first-hand accounts of the jealousy, pettiness, meanness and general anxiety that characterize female adolescence.
The girls in this book range in age from pre-school to post-grad. And Greenfield makes good use of the insecurities of each age, zeroing in on the shame of an 11-year-old at fat camp, emphasizing the anxiety of an up-and-coming actress standing outside her trailer, highlighting the terrible uncertainty of a teenage girl who is banished, by virtue of her rounded face and curly dark hair, from the blonde, slim world of the popular girls.
While it will come as no surprise to learn that beauty and appearance feature prominently the minds of most girls, Greenfield's portraits reveal the force with which the need to be desired, even objectified, in a very adult way is expressed, as well as the unexpected ambivalence with which that objectification, once achieved, is met. The book's teenage and pre-teen girls put on the trappings of adult sexuality — the makeup, the hairstyles, the clothing — but they aren't quite sure what to do with themselves once they're done. One series of photos shows a group of 7th-grade friends getting ready to go to a party; Hannah, a member of the group, talks with aching honesty about the dichotomy of appearance and reality. "I've been approached by people who think I'm older... It makes me kind of uncomfortable, because I might look older, but underneath it all, I'm only 13. It's kind of scary. It's a hard feeling to not know where you fit in yet."
While some of the girls' attempts at premature adulthood are wryly amusing, others are nearly tragic. Four-year-old Allegra is the youngest subject of Greenfield's camera; she poses on several pages wearing makeup, a too-large pink leotard and gold pumps. The images are eerily reminiscent of Jon-Benet Ramsey's now immortal beauty queen poses.
If there's anything to learn from this book, it's that there's simply no escape from the ordeals of girl culture. "Fat" girls get picked on, too-skinny girls get laughed at, popular girls spend their time worrying they'll stop being popular. Even beautiful girls suffer: Sara, a lanky, blonde 19-year-old model living in New York, describes an episode where a businessman approaches her on the sidewalk, puts his hand on her shoulder and asks to take a picture with her. When she brushes him off, he retaliates. "Five seconds later, I feel another tap on my shoulder," she recounts. "I turn around, and the same guy shoved me on the pavement." Sara doesn't seem particularly angry or upset about this incident, just sad.
And sadness is a common underlying theme of these stories; while many of the girls put on the perky, insouciant faces they feel they're expected to wear, their words betray a longing to be superficially different — smaller, taller, richer, blonder. The hierarchy of acceptable attributes is spelled out by one self-described Southern Belle, who prizes her "Southern-girl standards" above (almost) everything else. "I would rather be dumb than a slut," she announces, "but I would rather be a slut than be fat or ugly." -Time

Greenfield's stark photographs of girls and young women doing everything from practicing Tae-Bo in Beverly Hills to performing lap dances in Las Vegas aren't for the faint of heart. But the collection is so hard to put down that it's not destined to languish on a coffee table, either. Images of teenagers at weight loss camp or getting ready for a quinceanera (a 15th birthday ritual in the Hispanic community) come to life thanks to frank, first?person monologues from the girls themselves. A photograph of Erin, 24, getting "blind-weighed" (with her back to the scale) at an eating disorder clinic in Coconut Creek, Fla., is accompanied by this hair?raising commentary "I'm known for my eating disorder. It's my identity.... My nickname is Itty-Bitty, so what am I going to be without it? It's what makes me special. So I would just be ordinary without it. And for me, that's hard to admit." Although much of the text focuses on typical (but still depressing) teen issues such as peer pressure and drug abuse, readers should hang in there for glimmers of optimism and even brilliance. Jessica, 20, a member of Stanford University's women's swim team, says, "I think any female athlete has a sense of being kind of like Wonder Woman. You are able to do things that are a little closer to superhuman than normal girls. There's a little bit of Wonder Woman in everyone." Indeed, Greenfield's unflinching portraits, which will be at New York's Pace/MacGill Gallery this fall and will travel to the West Coast, are a testimony to that spirit. -Publishers Weekly


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Customer Reviews

Lauren Greenfield has captured some very powerful photographs.
S. Bear
I love this book so much, and I think every girl/woman should look at it.
Karyn R. Kuhl
Sometimes, the photos were shocking and beautiful at the same time.
One Fancy Angel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
With a lens that doesn't shy away from the 4 year old in a mini sequined gown, the cheesy backstage of a Las Vegas strip club, a surgical suite during a breast augmentation, or Panama Beach, FL at spring break, Lauren Greenfield's wide ranging photoessay provides an honest insider's view of the culture that forges women in the U.S. today. Anyone raising girls, anyone who was a girl, and anyone interested in trying to understand women, should have this book! What a magnificent find!
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Lauren Greenfield's photographs from her most recent project, Girl Culture,
represents an important return to traditional photography and a break with
the popular, staged work of the past decade. Using a 35mm camera and
working intuitively and spontaneously, Greenfield returns to the basics -
picturing that which is important and reorganizing the chaos of the real
world into compelling and complex images that speak to our experiences as
emotional beings. This may sound simple, but over the past ten years,
photographers have moved far from the traditional approach and into the
imaginative fictions of Hollywood films, utilizing elaborate productions
crews and massive digital prints. Greenfield, in a powerful and compelling
exhibition and book, brings photography back down to earth, and in doing so,
signals a shift in contemporary picture making.
Greenfield has spent more than five years photographing young women and
girls, plumbing the zeitgeist for clues about body image, self-esteem,
consumerism and sexuality. As you can imagine, the results are not pretty.
They are skewed toward the complicated psychological arena where
self-awareness is mixed with victimization. The exhibition and book are
quite different experiences due to the fact that the publication included
interviews with the subjects. For a full appreciation of how vital this
work is to photography and to women¹s studies, it is important to see them
both. I found a pervasive sadness to the interviews, wherein women spoke of
the pressures to be thin, stylish and sexual and then expressed admiration
for these ideals, like an alcoholic who continues drinking, encouraging
others to join in.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By "traceyhinson" on December 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
They are always blond, it seems, and always thin: the Popular Girls of every woman's haunted teenage memories. They are named Monique or Sandy or, of course, Heather, and their lithe legs stretch a mile from their fashionably rolled-up shorts to their totally cool sneakers - a degree of stylistic perfection unattainable by mere mortals. They seem so preternaturally gifted that you wonder whether such grace can persist into adulthood. (Maybe you hope it doesn't.) You also wonder whether these girls are happy.
Lauren Greenfield wondered just that when she traveled to Edina, Minnesota, in 1998 to photograph a story for The New York Times Magazine on the expansive topic of "being 13." Her pictures of the glorious blond Alpha Girls ruling over the seventh grade there began to provide an answer. The photos also began to convince Greenfield that there was much to be revealed about the real lives of American girls. It all led to a new book, Girl Culture (Chronicle Books, $40), an ambitious effort that blurs the distinction between photojournalism, art, and social science. (An accompanying exhibition of the images opened in October at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York and will be traveling to the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles in December and the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco in January.) "What I learned shooting the 'popular girls' in Edina was how hard it was to stay on top," says Greenfield, "and how insecure they felt about their social position. One said she was afraid she would come to school one day and suddenly find that she wasn't in the popular group anymore. Another girl said that if she could do it over again, she'd rather have real friends who liked her for who she was." Instead, she was rewarded for who she appeared to be.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By One Fancy Angel on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was walking through a local bookstore when the cover of this book caught my eye, and I was impacted immediately. The cover photo alone evoked a huge number of emotions within me, and I just had to buy the book, though I have never purchased a book of photographs before. I took down the title and author, and ordered this book from Amazon.
I am not surprised that this book evoked such strong emotions from the reviewers I've read on here so far. This is an astonishingly powerful book, and I've never seen anything like it. The incredibly evocative photographs are often coupled with a monologue by girls/young women. Both the photos and the monologues are exceptional looks deep into the psyches of girls and young women. There are average girls, popular girls, Latina girls, African American girls, girls at weight loss camp, girls at an eating disorder clinic, nude girls lap dancing....every kind of young woman imaginable. The photos hit me right in the gut....and I am shocked that I've never before heard of this author. Sometimes, the photos were disturbing, but only because they probably hit "too close to home." Sometimes, the photos were lovely and peaceful. Sometimes, the photos were shocking and beautiful at the same time.
I don't like to "tell the whole story" in my reviews; I think that completely spoils the surprise element for someone reading a book such as this for the first time. So...let me just say that this book of photos is well worth the money; I'd recommend it to any woman who is well beyond her "young woman" years.
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