(American, b.1977; resides in Chicago, IL)
Using digital technology, Jennifer Greenburg interjects herself into scenes of mid-century America. Her series Revising History seamlessly incorporates photographs of Greenburg and her husband within the compositions of anonymous vintage negatives. The resulting black and white images look like those found in a family album, featuring domestic activities, quaint suburban backdrops, and happy family moments. Something funny happened in the kitchen (2011) accentuates the ease and intimacy that permeates these visual narratives. Although the image’s off-kilter angle and Greenburg’s laughing pose and tennis shoes indicate a casual moment, the well-kept appearance of the three female subjects and their kitchen space suggests propriety. Such hints of decorum contribute to a nostalgic vision of a bygone time. Greenburg intimates this nostalgia when stating, “I believe the post-war era in the United States was a grand era in American history…. I feel that currently we have lost a lot of that hopeful idealism.” Correspondingly, Our Favorite Restaurant (2011) speaks to a longing for a more optimistic and manageable existence. Although the shot seems to document a special evening—with the photographer donning a mink shawl while her husband escorts her to the Rib Pit—the relatively small scale of the couple’s surroundings recall a kind of restraint that contrasts with the over-stimulating experience of much contemporary nightlife. By implicitly drawing comparisons between the present and a perceived yet unknowable national past, Revising History underscores the camera’s ability to restage both personal and collective memories.
Jennifer Greenburg was born in Chicago in 1977. She holds a BFA in fine arts from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, and an MFA in conceptual art (emphasizing documentary video and photography) from the University of Chicago. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; IUN Gallery for Contemporary Art, Gary, IN; andARC Gallery, Chicago. Light Work awarded her a grant and Artist in Residency for 2005, publishing a selection of The Rockabillies in the 2006 Contact Sheet annual. Greenburg is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University Northwest and has also taught at Columbia College Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Harold Washington College in Chicago, and College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant (2007), an Illinois Committee of The National Museum of Women in the Arts Grant Honorable Mention (2006), and a Stuart and Iris Baum Project Completion Grant (2005).
My initial discovery of this population was through my lifelong love of vintage clothing and music. It was with great surprise that my interest uncovered an entire culture of people who love the things I love, yet who also live their lives in such contrast to my own contemporary realities. - Jennifer Greenburg
Since 2001, Jennifer Greenburg has taken the mantels of both participant and voyeur while photographing rockabillies throughout the Midwest. Her large-scale color photographs show not only the 1950s clothing and décor favored in rockabilly culture, but also the activities and values her subjects have adopted in accordance with that era. While their revival of a mid-20 th century middle-class lifestyle is meticulous, it is equally selective, borrowing from a particular vision of American life rather than seeking to recreate its realities. A subtly selective focus in these pictures draws attention to particular details in each scene, a cue that the photographer is interpreting and not just recording the places and poses before her.