For 25 years, photographer Lauren Greenfield has chronicled the ascendance of a global elite: here, a picture of French aristocrats sitting beneath ancient tapestries; there, movie executives flashing $100 bills in St. Barts. Once, she took a portrait of a Chinese businessman in front of the replica of the White House he’d built as his home.
A book of her photos titled “Generation Wealth” was published last year. Tomorrow, Amazon Studios will release a full-length documentary bearing the same name and featuring many of the same people.
Whereas the book was more cautious about passing judgment—the Hermès bags, megamansions, and yachts were photographed carefully, as if at a remove—the film is unequivocal in its distaste for conspicuous consumption.
“It’s kind of like the end of Rome,” says a talking head as images of Las Vegas parties and gold jewelry flash across the screen. “The pyramids were built at the moment of precipitous Egyptian decline, and that’s what always happens; societies accrue their greatest wealth at the moment that they face death.”
Leaving aside the obviousness of that observation (anything that’s already peaked is by definition in decline), Greenfield’s documentary, which she wrote and directed, argues that we’ve reached the beginning of the end. Our global quest for fame and fortune, she argues, has gone hand in hand with an increasingly ossified class system.
Read the story at Bloomberg.
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