Greenfield grew up in Virginia and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Photography. Upon graduation in 97, Rebecca worked at Harper’s Bazaar, first as an assistant to Fabien Baron and then as an Associate Photo Editor. After two invaluable years, Rebecca left to pursue a career in photography.
Greenfield has received great acclaim for her personal project titled "Coming of Age" involving the documentation on female rites of passage and coming of age traditions in the United States. She has photographed everything from proms and Bat Mitzvahs to lesser-known events such as Quinceaneras, the 15th birthday parties elaborately celebrated within the Latin-American Culture to an "Apache Sunrise Dance", a commemoration of Native American girl's first menstruation.
Greenfield was recently invited to document the Star Wars Celebration VI, a convention that occupies the Orange County Convention Center in Florida. It is known as the ultimate fan experience and the biggest party this side of the galaxy, Star Wars Celebration brings fans of all ages together, from all points of the globe, to celebrate the pop-culture phenomenon that is Star Wars.
Dennis: How did you get your start in photography?
Rebecca: I started taking pictures when I was fifteen years old and then studied photography in college at RISD. After graduating, I worked in the photo department at Harper's Bazaar magazine for two and a half years, and when a new editor took over, all of my colleagues there scattered to various magazines. Those contacts gave me a foot in the door and that helped me make the initial leap into freelance editorial photography.
Your coming of Age Project has gained a lot of attention and praise. Can you tell us a bit about that series? How it began and how you went about choosing your subjects?
The Coming of Age project is very close to my heart as I've been working on it for over four years. I began by shooting Quinceañeras, the elaborate 15th birthday celebrations for Catholic girls of Latin American descent that signify the transition from girl to woman. I've probably photographed more than 10 of those events now, but eventually I realized I was interested in rites of passage for girls in a broader sense, and expanded my subject matter to include Debutantes, Bat Mitzvahs, Prom, Homecoming, Sorority Rush, evangelical Purity Balls (where a girl vows to God and her family to remain a virgin til marriage), Apache Sunrise Dances (a four day ritual of dance and prayer after a girl menstruates for the first time), and more. I've been lucky in that once I identify an event that I'd like to include in the series, I've been able to rely on word of mouth through friends and family, and failing that...google!
How did your Star Wars Series come about?
I got a call out of the blue from Lucasfilm...they wanted to document Celebration VI, a huge gathering of fans in Orlando. They'd never before documented one of these events in a comprehensive manner, so it was exciting to take on that assignment. I loved every minute of it.
When you work on a series such as Star Wars do you have a game plan of what you are looking to achieve...moments you are hoping to capture?
The Star Wars convention was held in an enormous, typically mundane convention center- what really interested me was the juxtaposition of the over-the-top, often exquisite attention to detail that the Star Wars devotees applied to their costumes/appearance, and the every day ugliness (for lack of a better word) of the surroundings. I wanted to capture moments that encapsulated that contrast, and when I couldn't find it organically, I constructed it myself. Darth Maul eating pizza, for example, was something I specifically wanted to find, and I couldn't believe my luck when I encountered it! But the storm troopers at the ATM were my idea and I think I made those guys walk almost a mile to an ATM I had spotted...
Are you a fan of the Sci-Fi Genre?
I'm not really a fan of sci-fi so much myself, but I feel like I am by proxy...so many of my friends are, and that has given me a working knowledge of the genre. i've also been known to watch some battlestar gallactica from time to time! and Star Wars of course! A million of my friends wanted to stow away in my suitcase when I told them about my Star Wars assignment!
Those Sci-Fi fans take their passion very seriously. I'm sure you had some interesting encounters. Tell us about your most memorable moment from shooting the series?
Too many to even share...from people "using the force" to open the convention center's automatic sliding glass doors, to storm troopers in the hot tub at my hotel (that photo is under wraps for now I'm afraid!)
Do you have a dream event or situation you would like to gain access to in order to document it?
Hmm, good question! I guess my brain is occupied with the Coming of Age project at the moment, so right now I'm hoping to find a Muslim girl who I can photograph when she puts on a veil for the first time. Also, the Cotillion at the Waldorf Astoria that happens just after Christmas every two years...I keep missing it!
Advice you would give someone starting out in photography and photojournalism?
No matter how you pay your bills, make time to consistently create personal work.