Fast Forward: Growing up in the Shadow of Hollywood was not only the project that put me on the map work-wise, but also the one where I found my voice creatively.
When I was studying photography and filmmaking, I didn’t really think I could make a career out of it – partially because I didn’t know if I was good enough and partially because there was no clear path like going to law school or medical school. I remember one of my teachers saying, ‘you have to go to war – young photojournalists have to go to war’ and nothing about that felt like my path.
Miraculously, I found my way to National Geographic and after an internship, got my first assignment on the Maya in Mexico with me as the photographer and my mother – a professor of psychology who had studied the Maya – as the writer. While I loved the long-term embedded photo-driven stories of National Geographic, with the Maya, I was struggling with a culture that I didn’t deeply understand and photographing people that didn’t want to be photographed. In a way, it wasn’t really my story to tell – it was more my mom’s.
We were renting a house [in Mexico], and on the shelf was an old copy of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. When I read the book, I started thinking about the world I had grown up in in L.A. as a possible subject and how interesting it was as a place where popular culture and the media emanates from.
I’d been living in London the year before, and had seen how kids were watching Beverly Hills 90210. Even though it’s a sitcom, there were things about it that rang so true for me. In the show, there was a kid who lived alone in a hotel and that really resonated with a kind of abandonment of kids I had witnessed [in L.A.]: young people who had so much independence and freedom [and] parents with so much money. In Less than Zero, there was a loneliness and alienation associated with money and excess that really spoke to me and made me want to go back to my hometown and document my own culture, with a rigour and depth that photojournalists and anthropologists usually save for the foreign.
Join our community
This article is available only to subscribers. You can join here.
CR's premium content is available only to subscribers. Join today for the sharpest opinion, analysis and advice on life in the creative industries.
+44 (0)2072923703 or firstname.lastname@example.org