Jill Greenberg is an American photographer and Pop artist. She was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Greenberg began photography when she was 9 years old. According to a 1998 New York Times
article, Greenberg's mother was a computer programmer and her father was a doctor. Greenberg took classes at Cranbrook Academy of Art
and the Detroit Institute of Arts
. In 1984, she attended the Photography Summer Session held by Parsons School of Design
in Paris. In 1985, she won a Traub Memorial Scholarship Travel Fund from Andover High School
in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1988, Greenberg completed coursework on Semiotics in Media
with Mary Ann Doane at Brown University. In 1989, she graduated with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design
with a BFA in Photography.
She is known for her portraits and fine art work that often features anthropomorphized animals that have been digitally manipulated with painterly effects. Her photography of animals is regarded for its capability to show a wide range of expressions and feelings that are comparable to that of a seasoned actor or actress. Some of the primates she has captured on film are actually celebrated in their own right, having been featured in different TV shows or movies. She is also highly recognized for her distinct, and stylized photography of celebrities including well-known performers such as Gwen Stefani
, Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Clint Eastwood
. She is also known for inserting her own strong opinions into her work. In reference to her work, Greenberg states "They're portraits and they're personal but there's a little twist going on. An edge."
In 1992, Greenberg began working for Sassy
magazine, doing commercial photography while working on getting her artistic career off the ground.
Greenberg is known for celebrity portraits, using painterly effects that are drawn using computer technology.
2011's Glass Ceiling
series involved shooting underwater, using scuba gear. She hired professional synchronized swimmers and photographed them in a pool in Culver City. The Glass Ceiling
series was featured as a billboard installation in Los Angeles, on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard at Fairfax (viewable while driving east).
In October 2012, Greenberg published a book of photographs called Horse
that features images of horses. Greenberg built photo studios within horse rings to take the photographs. The shooting took place in Los Angeles in an area called Walker's Basin and also in Vancouver at Danny Virtue's ranch, a man who supplies horses to the film industry. In January 2014, Greenberg had an exhibition in Canada of images from Horse
In August 2008, The Atlantic
asked her to photograph John McCain
for the magazine's October 2008 cover. Greenberg said they didn't have enough money to pay her so she gave them a license to use one of her photos for the cover (while she retained ownership of the photo) for free, for one-time use. Greenberg decided to make some personal images of the pictures. "I really didn't want there to be another Republican in the White House, so I decided to put my McCain pictures out on voting day."
Saying she saw the work as political cartoons. "I thought it was the Artist Jill Greenberg appropriating the work of the Commercial Photographer Jill Greenberg."
Greenberg's End Times
, a series of photographs featuring toddlers, was the subject of controversy in 2006 (April 22 – July 8). The work featured stylized hyper-real closeups of children's faces contorted by various emotional distresses. The pieces were titled to reflect Greenberg's frustration with both the Bush administration and Christian Fundamentalism in the United States. The children were either professionally hired or were the children of friends (and included her daughter). All were accompanied by their parents, who assisted in getting the children to cry. The series resulted in active, often heated online discussion and news coverage, and resulted in hate mail which continued for several years. The images, meanwhile, have been imitated and used without permission for unrelated campaigns.