Jill Greenberg can stir up a controversy, not so much with the results of her photographs, but more by the means she applies to achieve them. These anguish stricken portraits of children are actually emotional outbursts after a lollipop was deliberately snatched away from them.
Greenberg’s core photographic expertise is portraiture. Whether she is doing work for magazine publications or conducting a solo exhibit, Greenberg gravitates to some form of portraiture of her subject. Be it babies or famous personalities, these pictorials are most often staged, such as these toddler tantrum photos, and her techniques often elicit harsh criticism. She is however, quick not to distance herself from her unorthodox methods, and admits she will manipulate her subjects to achieve a certain look she is after.
Greenberg was born in Montreal, but grew up much of her life in Detroit. Photography was a lifelong passion that started from childhood, and she acquired a BFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. Greenberg’s trademark style of portraits often has glaring lighting with shiny accents on the subject’s facial contours. She says her post-processing entails “a lot of masking, apply color curves, dodge and burn. It’s all done by hand, like painting.” She is known to capture images in camera using film, but does extensive digital editing.
True to her reputation, she used methods to extract real and raw emotions from these kids. They were given lollipops, were made to indulge them, and then were taken away. The result is this series of crying toddlers with intense emotions etched on their angelic faces.
Being no stranger to controversy, Greenberg assures her critics that the lollipop treats were taken away for no more than 30 seconds from each subject. Obviously that was more than enough to bring them to tears. Greenberg’s objective for this portfolio was to depict genuine distress, disappointment, and frustration. She likened this “anger and helplessness” with how scores of people feel about the current political situation and how social conditions have deteriorated in the United States.
See her series of crying little babies here.