Jill Greenberg

Interview 034 • Nov 5th 2015


Another interview having run way too long, I’ve rushed back to the car, recording Jill Greenberg using two iPhones facing each other, baking because I don’t want to lower the windows and let too much ambient noise in, afraid to drive anywhere and lose the already sketchy signal. But the shvitzing keeps my mind off the fact I’m talking to one of the best photographers I’ve ever interviewed, listening as she answers both deeply and openly. A great time with a great lady, but I definitely owe our transcriber a beer…or twelve.

This interview has been edited for clarity and content.


Let me start with this: what I love about your work is you’ve found a way to do socially conscious art that doesn’t come off as too polemic, too heavy-handed. Have you been conscious in trying to have a light touch with how you combine both your social interests and your art?

In which body of work?

I mean, well, because with your personal work, mainly. But even in the commercial projects you choose, there’s a heavy dose of things that you’re interested in, socially. Does the art come first, or the issue you’re trying to tackle?

The concepts are sort of things that I think about all the time, or things, for the Glass Ceiling series, I was doing a lot of sort of feminist art in school, and that was a long time ago, I just sort of started thinking about how there’s a very clear gender bias in the photo world. And so I sort of, you know, it was more like, I was doing a shoot, and one of the shots looked to me like, “wow, this should really be called ‘the glass ceiling.’ I think I’m going to do a series called Glass Ceiling!” So it just sort of…happened, in a certain way.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

I got you.

The painting, the more recent painting stuff was more premeditated. I had been working on it for a really long time, to figure out a way to incorporate paint into my photography. Because a lot of my Photoshopping, I mean, you can digitally paint things on the picture, but I was thinking of trying to incorporate actual physical paint. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t crack it. So I finally figured a way that looked good, a year ago.

Do you take more joy in the process or the final result?

Hmm. Umm, that’s a really hard question.

And remember, there is a right and a wrong answer!

Haha. I think both. I really like…maybe the process? I don’t know. I like…it’s good to be making work, you know? I technically don’t need to keep making new images of a lot of the paintings, I have a lot of images that I can go back and look through the sessions, and, you know, tweak things that I didn’t catch, and make prints and things like that, but instead of doing that, I just want to keep making the paintings. So I guess that means I like the process more. But I mean, the process includes, you know, the editing, you have some things the process didn’t capture.


It’s all part of it, but it is fun to sort of get my hands dirty again.

What kind of personal projects are you drawn towards right now?

I’m still very in the middle of doing that painting series, And honestly, I sort of feel like, it’s what I’m meant to be doing for a while.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal


Continuing to evolve, continuing to add things to it. Like I started adding colored light, or…I don’t know. Making it more technically nightmarish for myself.


I don’t know, if there are ways that I could maybe do it where I could shoot separate sections and attach it together, so I can make bigger prints. I already have an 80 megapixel back, but maybe I could, you know, shoot 4 separate exposures over 80 megapixels and splice them together and then have some ridiculously huge art piece. I don’t know, that’s just an example of what I could do.

Right. Do you find joy in that kind of experimentation?

I like the experimentation, I don’t know if I find joy in that…I mean, I do tend to make my life somewhat difficult, I don’t know why. You know, animals, babies, underwater scuba diving pictures, things like that. So it’s been nice that I can just, you know, hang out in my sweatpants and play and paint, and not even have an assistant and do it all by myself.


So that’s sort of fun. I just listen to music, fool around with paint and light, and you know, but I mean, I don’t know. I do think that it’s fun.

So this process is enjoyable, but not always?

Sometimes it’s just really, yeah, it’s physically hard. It’s hard to see what I’m actually doing, like if I’m actually scuba diving and sitting at the bottom of a pool, you know, you sort of can see what you’re doing, but…it’s sort of, sort of hard, underwater photography.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal


Yeah, definitely.

Yeah, and all the animals and children were all shot on film, which, you know, I sort of knew what I was getting. It’s weird to think about it being pre-digital, and people would be like “how do you know that you got it?” We all knew how to take pictures before digital came around!


I still like doing it, feeling like I’ve accomplished something and made something. And when I was younger, I used to draw all the time, so I like the sort of feeling of accomplishment of just having a sketchbook and making a couple new drawings that I was sort of proud of for myself each day. I just felt like I had accomplished something.


And made something new and sort of for myself that I was happy with. A way of marking the time.

Is it difficult to kind of keep the passion going? I mean, you’ve been successful, you’ve been making great work for, a good long time at this point. Do you find it a challenge to keep things fresh for yourself?

Umm, I don’t think that, so much, and now that I’m sort of doing this specific work with paint, I sort of started thinking “why do people keep meaning to take the same photo all the time?” I like to try the impossible or unrealistic aspects of an idea, I like to challenge myself. So no, I’m not jaded, or, what’s the word…I haven’t given up.


There are things that get me, you know, there are things that make me want to sometimes give up or whatever, but it’s not in terms of inspiration.


More in terms of other things, like, business stuff.

Yeah. Has the business become easier or more difficult as time goes on?

Well, I started in 1990? There were, like, five photographers.


I know I’m exaggerating, of course, I mean, obviously.

Haha. Everyone knows there were seven!

Right! But I’m saying it’s sort of crazy bananas. And I think I found out because I’m doing like a mentor thing for SVA, and I’d never really done any teaching before, so, it’s sort of interesting. I think she said there’s one hundred and fifty graduating photography students in her class, and that’s just one school. Of course, photography is fun! Everybody wants to be a photographer. Yeah, so, it’s hard. You can’t really ever rest on your laurels. And then what’s funny is, sometimes I hear about people who work for other photographers who are like, really, sort of at the top of the field. And those people are like crazy maniacs, when you hear about it. I mean, you’d think that maybe I’m…I work too hard or whatever, but those people are like, crazy. Crazier than me, about their work! They refuse to have a down day. I actually turned down this one job, it was a Sunday and didn’t pay any money, it was cool but whatever. I don’t know. I just actually turned down a free editorial job, god forbid. And I just found out that, whatever. I’m not going to name names, but I found out this huge photographer did it instead of me, and I’m like “what? That’s crazy! Why would that person…why does he care that much?” I mean, the subject was cool, but it wasn’t like…

That cool.

It was just like…weird. The business is bananas.

Do you like teaching?

Umm, I like it, but it’s the same kind of thing about…you know, I mean, RISD came to visit me, I went to RISD, so I’m sort of on their radar, I have a little bit of a relationship with them, and the students came down, and I was like, “you guys all want to be photographers? You should find a different job.” Hahahahhahaha.


Because, you know, I’ve made somewhat of a name for myself, you know, I’ve been doing it for a while, and it’s still a fucking nightmare.


I wouldn’t really…you have to give up…you can never be in charge of your schedule, ever. You know, I have kids and a husband, it’s hard to have a life. The kids have spring break this week, and I’m not even sure if I’m going with them on our family vacation. I think I’m probably meeting them there, but it’s just like…hard, you know? Because the kids are getting older, they’re 9 and 11, and just thinking about all of the…how much I’ve worked during vacation, all that kind of stuff, you know?


I mean, it’s fine, you know, it’s all been total fun. But it’s something you have to…you sort of have to give that up.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Are you conscious of trying to keep all that in balance?

I mean, I try. I try. Yeah…I’ve never officially turned down a job, but one time, there was like…last June there was a job that basically was a triple bid on an ad job, you know, and I didn’t want to be that flexible with my fee. I had a vacation planned with just me and my husband because my parents had the kids. So I was like, “this could be a perfect little vacation with my husband.” How often do my parents have my kids for a week? So, I was like, “no, I’m not going to lower my fee, because I truly want to go on this vacation.” If they pay me enough, then it’s worth it. If they don’t, I’m not going to put off my vacation. I don’t know if I would have gotten the job, I have no idea, but it was just sort of like…I don’t know, you know what I mean?

You want to make it worth missing out on that time with the family.

Exactly. Exactly.

Yeah, totally.

Because otherwise, you know, I’m 47, I still…like every photographer, I don’t ever want to miss out on anything. But, there has to be a little bit of a balance. And also, I would love to…right now I’m still, sort of the breadwinner of my family…I keep sort of saying to my husband, “when can I retire?” And he’s like, “you’re never going to want to retire!” The thing is, I like doing what I do, and I like doing popular culture stuff. I like meeting all the cool people from magazines. I like making pictures. What I don’t like is the getting tortured by clients, because that happens every so often. I like working with for nice clients, which is generally the case. So, you know, I like working.

Do you gravitate towards the more controversial work?

I think that more and more our culture has become incredibly fear-based. And I’m not exactly sure why now, more than ever, it’s like that. I guess it’s always been like that. But I think because the market has taken serious dumps in the past 10–15 years, the people have become more gun-shy, more…more afraid to do anything, I don’t know…people have become more conservative. I think it’s a shame, I think it’s sort of pathetic, ahahahhaa.

I think that people have things to say, and it’s sort of sad that they’re too scared to say them. It’s interesting to sort of walk that line of trying to sort of have these corporate relationships. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot and have them be like, “well she’s too outspoken, so we can’t use her to endorse our products” because I’m trying to, you know, push that situation, I’m still working with that agency. I don’t know, I’ve always sort of been interested in shock-value art. I always…it’s just been like that forever.


Hahahhaha, I just have. Freshman year at RISD, I don’t even know how this happened, I actually had a mini-solo show half way through freshman year, because the photo teacher who, he’s not there anymore because he actually died, but he thought I was talented. He let me have a little solo show, just in the photo building. I was photographing erect male penises, tied to chicken bones, and I called it “Boner” and it was a really funny picture. I think I’ve actually Instagramed that picture…it’s out there, it’s a cyanotype of an erect penis tied to a chicken bone. I have other little random stuff, I just think it’s funny that I push people. I sort of do this to myself, really.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

So, let me ask you, when the McCain situation happened, was there a kind of thrill involved in having pushed that man’s buttons?

There was totally a thrill. I mean, honestly, if I wasn’t married to my husband, I wouldn’t have…my husband is super political, super left-y, he’s on the board of The Nation, and he’s always promoting left-wing nonsense, my husband. So, I wasn’t…admittedly, I am not the most politically really nitty-gritty involved in world politics and things like that. I’m definitely into feminism and stuff, but not so much politics. So when I got the call to photograph McCain, my husband said, “we researched and found out that Jeffery Goldberg was writing the article,” and he said, “Ohmigod, Jeffery Goldberg is a horrible person,…he started the war in Iraq by talking about WMDs…” just gave me all this information, so I was like, “okay fine, I’m going to fuck with McCain then.” I was doing that shoot for free. I wouldn’t have done it if it had been like, a Conde Nast publication. And nobody, nobody knew about The Atlantic at that point. But yeah, I don’t know, I mean, in hindsight, I don’t know if I needed to do that for my career. Hahahhahaaha. Which is sad, because people just flipped out. And it was also, I think, that was…2008?


That was actually part of the, a little bit part of the inspiration for “Glass Ceiling”, because I really felt like, “gee, if a guy did that, I can’t imagine the response.” Maybe it would have been the same thing, what do I know, but…

But you get the sense that it would have been different.

I mean, Terry Richardson is still out there. And he’s still shooting covers of Rolling Stone.

This is very true.

So I don’t see why I had to be treated the way I was treated, being called bitch, cunt, whore, whatever the hell I was called, death threats. I mean, Republicans are a…we’re a very partisan society, and people get crazy. And it was in the middle of the fucking election. So, yeah.

But what better time??

You know, I didn’t really think it through. But at least I’m Canadian and I can run off to Canada.


It would have been disruptive, to move the whole family up to Canada…I mean, I just feel like the fact that people still bring it up – not interviewers, so much, but I feel like there might be magazines that won’t hire me. And I’m just like “okay, I don’t understand how Terry Richardson acts how he does, and still get hired.”


Because that is actually hurting people, whereas what I did was just psychological damage.

Yeah, you made fun of someone.

I made fun of someone, when that’s full of…there are political cartoons all over.

Yeah, there’s an industry based around that.

Exactly. And I had been assigned to make people look bad before. I’ve been assigned to make someone look like a murderer, by a Conde Nast publication.


Just three months previous.

That’s a good shoot.

Yeah! So, I don’t know.

With the work you’re doing now, what got you down that line of thinking to do that kind of work?

That’s kind of what I was talking about at the beginning of the conversation, I had been trying to incorporate painting, physical painting, back into my work for a while, and I just couldn’t…I couldn’t crack it. I tried to put paint on my prints, it was just hard, doing Photoshop for twenty-five years, being spoiled, you don’t want to commit to putting paint on anything because you can’t fix it. So it was sort of the perfect…photographing the paint was sort of this perfect synthesis of mediums. I’m not Photoshopping it later, but, not to say that in the future I might not? Maybe I could take pictures of little brush strokes of paint and then composite the entire thing in Photoshop. I don’t know, I haven’t, that’s not what I’m doing, but maybe I’ll do that, I don’t know.

You can do whatever you want!

Right now, the only reason I’m sort of pulling attention to the fact that none of it’s done in Photoshop is, for some reason, people think that all that what I do is in Photoshop, which is not true. I don’t know if it’s because I called myself “The Manipulator” in the nineties? I have no idea. But a lot of what I do is in-camera. Most of what I do is in-camera. I’m super-picky about my lighting. So yeah, I don’t know, I think there’s been sort of misinterpretation or something about some of the work that I do, but basically the work looked a lot like that on the contact sheet. I mean I sort of, enhance things.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Right, but I’ve never found that the…processing was never really what drew me to your various work, it’s always more been the kind of how you deal with the subjects, what kind of subjects you choose. The processing always seems more like accenting than the point.

Yeah, that’s what I come from, exactly.

This is also much more abstract.

Yeah, I’ve never done an abstract body of work really.

Was there an impulse to be more solitary, to be more internal?

Umm. I mean, I guess I had time I was experimenting, so I was experimenting by myself. And just doing the paint, I didn’t need anybody to help me, and because I was just, that’s what’s cool about drawing and painting is that you don’t need to have the subject there. When I…in the past when I draw and paint, I would do it from my head. So I don’t really need, I don’t need anybody else there. It was just a lot of experimentation that ended up coming together in this weird little way, I was just playing with paint under the skylights of my loft, that had these sort of beams across them so that the paint gets these crazy stripes on them from the daylight. It’s pretty cool, it starts to look like fractals, and it’s really cool.

Are you working on this concurrently with your commercial work? Or are you focusing solely on this project right now?

Um, no, I do it between jobs.


So, if I’m busy for a couple weeks working on various jobs, that’s one thing, but then often times, I’ll have a few weeks, have time between jobs where I can focus on my painting.

Is it kind of cathartic to get back into painting after so long?

Yeah, it’s really great, it’s nice to have a physical element.


And just being able to show the handmade lines, you know, gestures or whatever, but you can’t really include, you can’t show your, the handmade mark in Photoshop, because it looks like a mistake.


You know, you can’t really make a big gesture on something, they’ll be like, “what, did you drop the mouse?” Hahahha. It’s nice to be able to bring that back in. And I’m probably going to start doing more and more figurative ones. Because pretty much all I draw are faces and bodies, things like that. I do abstract stuff, too, but my favorite things are the faces, people.


Sort of funny characters, animal-people combinations, things like that. Which makes sense, with all my personified animals!

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Right. Are there things that you continue to work on, as a photographer, places where you still want to improve?

I mean, I’m always looking to try new lighting styles. But I think I have a good handle on that. It’s more like there are opportunities that I would like to have. I’ve been trying to get into doing more beauty jobs. And so, just because I like the faces, they’re sort of one of my favorite things, it’s more like trying to get those kinds of jobs.

Right. Different opportunities, rather than technical improvements.

Right, because it’s just…you know, if I had unlimited time and money to play with a bunch of different lights, that would be fun, too. I have a bunch of go-to lighting set ups, and I mean, just even recent new things that I’ve been doing that I really like, trying to sort of talk clients into, sort of, “oh, you don’t want that old thing, you want this new thing that I’m doing!” And they’re like “okay, cool.” You know, that new CMOS chip, you can shoot at the highest ISO, so I’ve been shooting with hot lights more. A couple years ago I got a Nikon, so that I can shoot up to 4000 ISO with hot lights. And, just playing with that kind of freedom, it’s fun to play with different kinds of lighting, and the technology ends up changing what can be done, so I try to keep up with that.

Is that kind of an obligation of the business? Or something you enjoy?

I enjoy doing it. Because I’ll sort of…in the early 2000’s, when I got a Canon, and I started photographing my kids all the time, and I was like, I really love low light. I really love that really soft color, low-light situation. I was happy when the Nikon came out and it was bigger chips and I could shoot up to 4000 ISO, so I could do lighting that was not generic strobe studio lighting. It’s just another thing you can do. I don’t think it’s an obligation, I like playing with technology, and I always have. When Photoshop came out, I was excited. There were a lot of photographers that in the early nineties were like, “bah humbug, that’s stupid. I’m a purist, why would I change my photos?” I’m like, “you’re an idiot, obviously.” I don’t know, I think it’s actually funny, it’s a little like…my family has always been really early adopters of technology. My dad performed laser eye surgery in Canada, across the border before it was legal in America. He moved from Michigan to Canada because my mom was programming computers on punch cards to put my dad through medical school, we’re very…


Exactly! We’re progressive and technically adventurous. Technology to me is fun, which helps with photography.

Do you, because you’re…

Here’s a thing, that I think is funny, I was online chatting with boys in 1984.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal


Yeah. I was like, probably one of the first people to do online dating.


We had a dial-up modem, the suction cup thing, and my parents did not even know that I was chatting with boys and that I met the guy that I met online. In 1984.

That’s amazing. Because it was all like, DOS back then. Your work is always very striking and recognizable. Do you work hard to kind of lock down your visual voice? Because I know people will imitate your work, do you, when you see something like that, do you then consciously shift to like, “okay I gotta change what I’m doing or grow in a certain way”?

Yeah, I do try to…you do sort of have to…I want to keep growing for myself, but I definitely try to, you know, not just do one thing anyway. It was hard, the crying babies thing, and still people think that that’s how I’m identified, that I only do that thing? It’s been sort of annoying…it sort of hurts business. I’ll have clients say, “well yeah, we’ll hire you when we need that look” and it’s like what, no, I don’t do only that. I didn’t only do that back then. I tried really consciously to, like I was doing daylight, black-and-white, and all these other things at that same time, but it didn’t even matter because people…it just became so attached to my name…

My feeling was that it was so different from what people had been doing, and it really just kind of hit that sweet spot, you know, of good, striking work, that’s easily recognizable.

Right, but it’s weird because, I mean, I think in the beginning, I remember hearing that there was this woman who sort of copied me for this one ad campaign, and apparently people were all…this is what I’ve heard from my interns or whatever. Right when I started doing it, someone else sort of copied me, and she got yelled at by most of the people in the photo world. But now, everybody does it! So I just don’t understand at what point it became totally fine for everyone to copy me? I feel like after the McCain thing some folks said, “let’s just write Jill off, we’ll just copy her.” I don’t understand when it became okay.




Does it all, maybe, because when I’ve seen stuff like this before, it seems like the internet has a lot to do with that, as well, pictures will float along for so long that they’ll lose their provenance, and someone will just copy a photo, not knowing where it came from.

Yeah, except for the fact that it’s called The Jill Greenberg Effect Like if you Google it, it’s the only thing that…so at least with that, I’m given credit for it, but you know, when there are certain TV networks that their entire slate of shows are like…half of the posters look like I could have shot the campaign, but I didn’t? And that was sort of when I realized “maybe there is a glass ceiling,” when they’re hiring these sort of mediocre guys from these agencies, and I’ll say, “hey call me” and they’ll say, “oh yeah, we love your work, everyone at our agency loves your work, we have it in the mood boards all the time for all of our presentations!” And I’m like, “well, why don’t you hire me to do it?” And they’re like, “oh, huh, I don’t know.”

That’s a helluva idea.

It’s bizarre. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a dick…I mean, honestly, what is the reason? There is no reason.

Right, the other people are cheaper.

“Was it because we thought you were too expensive?” I’m like, I don’t know, did you? Because you just have to tell me what you have, and maybe I’ll, maybe it will be fine. But if they didn’t even ask me…it’s just bizarre.

I mean, that must be frustrating.

It is.


They teach it in art school. I meet people all the time that are like “oh yeah, we learned your lighting in art school!” Like what? Okay.

How do you work through that kind of frustration?

I don’t! I have no idea. I just deal with it, I mean, there’s not really…I don’t know. I go on living.


I mean, it affects me. I try to sort of like, in meetings, and tell people…I sort of bring it up, that maybe they should not hire guys to copy me. I don’t know.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Does that then force you to then come up with something equally as distinctive, but different?

I definitely do, and I keep trying to do that, like the collage people were kind of like that. And then people, I started Instagraming these guys in the forest and, but that’s a much more narrow application. But it’s weird, because then people will start copying that, and they’ll hashtag me. “That Jill Greenberg thing with guys in the forest.” Why don’t you find something new for yourself to do? I don’t know.

Because I’ve noticed that, I’m thinking of Ryan McGinley’s work, as well, when people started copying him, he was then forced to change it up…with people who are as famous as you are with your kind of talent, it seems almost, unfortunately, inevitable that people will copy and that you always have to stay one step ahead of them.

Yeah, yeah. There’s a lot of people that people don’t copy. Like, no one feels like they need to copy Martin Schoeller, really. There’s maybe one guy that sort of copies him…you know what I mean? No one, why is nobody doing that?

Right, that’s a good point. Yeah.

I mean, people do copy Terry Richardson. But yeah, I don’t know. I mean, everything with digital, there’s so much stuff that all sort of blends together, a lot of work out there, but when someone is doing something distinctive…I don’t know. I hate getting copied.

Yeah. But at the same time, is the other side of that that it does keep you moving as an artist?

It does, but even before people were copying me I was…you have to keep moving…I was doing stuff that was really different in the nineties and I guess it became, it got dated really fast, so I had to move along, and it wasn’t because people were copying me.


I mean, I don’t know, maybe it was, a long time ago, but it was more like, more just like…you know, it’s becomes old.

Yeah, to keep up with the industry.

Right, to make yourself…doing something new for myself, and the market.


But at the same time, I’m not going to totally, I couldn’t even possibly do it if I wanted to, like, totally change. If it does fit with the market, but I still sort of do what I do.

You are who you are.



And just one last question: What piece of advice would you give to somebody going into photography right now?

I guess I would tell them to find a new job. Don’t do it!

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

Hahahahha. If you had to do it again, would you still be a photographer?

Umm, I mean, I don’t know if starting now, I don’t know…no, I would, I would. But I think that, you have to be willing to give everything else up, and I mean everything. You have to be incredibly single-minded and a workaholic and driven and, you know, photographers just are so competitive, and I was sort of talking about the other more, successful people when I hear these stories. They’re really fucking competitive and driven. I don’t know if that’s why we’re so annoying, is because we’re so fucking competitive.


It’s unfortunate, because, you know, when I lived in LA and would hang out with writers and, writers are all friends with each other. And that’s cool. But like, photographers…I’m friends with some, but we’re all so competitive with each other, and it’s just kind of sad. Whatever. So, I don’t know, I think, sure, if somebody really really wants to do it, I would just say, ask other people, and make sure that other people think that you really have what it takes. Because if you don’t have a special talent, I mean…you can definitely make it without a special talent if you’re like a really hot, charming guy. So, either you have to be a really hot, charming guy, be gay or straight or whatever, or, be really talented. That’s my advice, does that make sense?

Yeah, I mean, what about being a really hot woman?

Umm, you know what, maybe for a while, until you hit 40. But then you’re a middle-aged woman who maybe has kids and is married, that just hurts your marketability.


I guess since I was, I mean, it just doesn’t work as well. In the future, it will, and maybe women in their 20’s and 30’s, great. But it’s interesting that a lot of the successful women photographers are gay.


Right? Heterosexual women photographers, there’s just no place for us. Especially if you have children, that’s just weird. A lot of the successful women are gay.

Why do you think that is? Because it hadn’t even occurred to me…

I think that people don’t know what to do with heterosexual women. They’re maybe too challenging to…I don’t know. I mean, it has something to do with how we fit into the world, and how we fit into the power structure, or don’t. And I think gay women are not threatening in the same way as an in-your-face heterosexual women who’s comfortable with her sexuality, I mean, I don’t know. I just think that there’s something going on there. I can’t be sure of it, but I just think it’s interesting that it’s clearly…it exists.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal


I don’t know. I just think that, there aren’t that many successful women as it is, but a lot of the ones that are not hetero.

Right. Do you feel like there’s more competition between women as well?

No. In the photo world? No, not really.

That’s good.

Because there aren’t that many that are getting jobs! I do a fair amount of entertainment marketing and the jobs that women get are few and far in between. I talk to clients, and they’ll be like, “oh, we have this list of our usual guys.” And I’m like, okay, that sounds like a list of guys. There are no women on that list.

It’s completely arbitrary.

It’s literally this fear-based culture that, our culture talks about women as if we are less capable and competent, so if there’s even the slightest doubt that a women would deliver, why would a client take a risk? So it’s sort of a subconscious thing that happens. Where they’re like, “we have this huge hundred thousand dollar whatever project, we’re going to get fired if it gets fucked up, so let’s just hire one of those guys that we usually hire.” Even if they’re sort of mediocre, and they don’t necessarily deliver anything stellar, and they just get the job done.

How do you combat something like that?

Uh, I have no idea! Maybe just raising awareness, reminding people that there’s this weird subconscious thing that happens, because we talked about, “don’t act like a girl.”

I’m totally going to cut this whole part out of the interview, too.


I’m totally going to cut this part out of the interview, too!

Oh, okay!

We can’t get the word out!

No, we can’t get the word out! No, I mean, it’s crazy, there are a lot of magazines that have no women as contributors on the masthead. Not that I wanted to do this myself, though my new art is technically still-life, there aren’t that many women that are crazy technical still-life photographers. Maybe women just don’t want to do that, but what’s up with that?

There’s gotta be some!

Isn’t that weird?


I don’t know, there’s just…the problem is, there’s no quota for hiring, I mean, it’s not as if the Equal Rights Amendment never passed, so there’s that, but for freelancers there are no, we don’t have any kind of rights. There are no quotas. A magazine doesn’t have to hire any women, ever.

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal

There’s no advocate.

No, there’s, a women’s television network that basically doesn’t hire women. You can fucking put that in, at this point, I am so annoyed with them. I’ve actually told them “dude, you have to hire some women.” They just don’t, they don’t care, even though they’re marketing to women.

Right. That is fucked up.

It’s crazy. I’m actually working on a TV show about a woman that dresses like a man for her career. And it’s actually probably going to happen, because I’m working on it with this woman, Christina Wayne. She did Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Oh nice.

Because she’s an old friend from LA.

That would be amazing!

Yeah, also I’ve started…I started wearing jumpsuits. The thing is, I’m very feminine looking, I’m very curvy and I wear makeup usually, I have blonde hair. But I started to wear jumpsuits, because I feel like that sort of de-gender-fies me? And it’s sort of good. Because on set, like, if it’s me in charge of thirty guys, it’s just bizarre, right? I don’t know. So it’s good when I wear my jumpsuit.

Do you recognize a change, externally? Or is it more of a feeling for yourself in those situations?

It’s more for myself, I mean, there were a bunch of reasons. I wouldn’t really like when I would bend over and my underwear would show. You know, you’re always bending over to take photos, you don’t want clients looking at your underwear or your butt. I don’t know, I was just like, “what am I supposed to wear to photo shoots?” Like, if I dress too nice, then I look…but if I dressed like an assistant, black jeans and wearing a t-shirt, and rolling all over the ground, that’s not really nice enough…I don’t know, the jumpsuit ended up being this really good solution.

Yeah, I mean, jumpsuits are dope.

Yeah, totally. And people like them.

Everybody likes jumpsuits.

They’re flattering…the only thing is, they’re a pain because you have to take them all the way off to go to the bathroom?


But I deal with it, it’s fine.

You need one of those old, like…



I know. I need to design one with a trapdoor. That’s on my list, literally.

Forget photography, I think you’ve hit on it…

Exactly! No, I know, my husband was like you should call it 21 Jumpsuit, you should put your photos on them, and then you can just retire! Hahahhaha.

Hahahahhahaha. I am fully in support of that idea.

I know, I could like, put, make prints of my art, they could even be interchangeable? You know like punk rock leather jackets that like safety pin a t-shirt on the back?


You could have this interchangeable art to put on the back. It’d be really cool.

Every second you’re not working on this is a second wasted.

I know, I know! I need to do it.

Alright, I think that’s a good place to end!

Interview 035: Jill Greenberg for The Photographic Journal