A Photo Teacher |

Thin

Posted in PHOT 167 by Paul Turounet on November 1, 2008

© Lauren Greenfield, clip from documentary film Thin, 2006

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As a follow-up to her critically-acclaimed documentary project, Girl Culture, which examined the public and private lives of growing up as girl and into womanhood, and the inherent pressures of personal identity and the rituals of girl culture, Thin delves deeper into the issues of body image and treatment of eating disorders of young women.  In 2007, the film received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

The HBO documentary film takes us inside the walls of Renfrew Center, a residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders, closely following four young women (ages 15 – 30) who have spent much of their lives starving themselves – often to the verge of death.  The film deftly chronicles the pervasiveness of disordered eating behaviors, as well as the failure of our current health-insurance industry to address its clients’ needs, while never shifting focus from the women themselves.  Director Lauren Greenfield documents with astonishing depth the daily rituals, spontaneous friendships and startling swings between recovery and relapse that make up life at the center.

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Lauren Greenfield is a member of the VII Photo Agency and has been recognized as one of the most-respected chroniclers of youth culture.  Her photographs have been widely exhibited and are in many museum collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the International Center of Photography.  In 1998, she was named by American Photo as one of the 25 most influential photographers working today.

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Consider and respond to the following:

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After watching Lauren Greenfield’s film, Thin, click on the following interactive website, Girlpower.  What are your thoughts on how media is using technology to enhance the appearance of how someone looks?  While these type of strategies are predominantly used with women within the context of fashion and beauty, there are a considerable number of circumstances where the photographer and/or technology has been used to either enhance and/or change how someone or something looks.  When is it “appropriate” and/or not, and why?

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Recently there has been considerable discussion (click on Some Thoughts on the Visual Language of Photojournalism, Some More Thoughts on the Visual Language of Photojournalism, What Is Photojournalism Anyway? and from the Magnum Photo site by Alec Soth, Does Photojournalism Make You Want To Verklempt | Comments) about the current state of photojournalism, documentary photography and photography of the “real,” particularly with suggestions that photograhers working in such environments need to challenge traditional visual conventions, including tools, materials and presentation strategies, including the increasing use of multimedia presentations by photographers, such as those produced by VII Multimedia and Magnum Photos In Motion.

Are the issues | problems with this visual language one of content | subject matter and the need to explore new ideas | concerns?  Or is the issue one of seeing these same socially-conscious issues presented repeatedly with the same visual strategies and techniques?  With this in mind, what are your thoughts on Thin?

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What could | should the contemporary photographer consider in challenging the visual language of photojournalism, documentary photography and photography of the “real” so that it may continue to be a vital and viable means of communicating “socially-conscious” concerns?

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