Lauren Greenfield's THIN
October 16, 2006 10:43 AM   Subscribe

"THIN is a photographic essay and a documentary film about the treatment of eating disorders. In 1997, Lauren Greenfield began documenting the lives of patients at the Renfrew Center in Coconut Grove, Florida, a forty-bed residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders. She subsequently returned to Renfrew to take more photographs, and was eventually given unprecedented access to film the daily lives of patients". (scroll down or search for "Greenfield"). 2002 MeFi post on Greenfield's previous project, "Girl Culture", here.
posted by matteo (23 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is really great, matteo. Too bad it's being covered by People, those mindfuckers.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:09 AM on October 16, 2006

I have admired Lauren Greenfield's work for a long time. This is intense stuff. I am so glad she's done another project.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2006

Second link contains images that are NSFW, matteo.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2006

Disturbing. What's really scary is how close some of these girls are to the absolute standard of physical beauty for models. If I had seen some of those girls at the mall, I would have just been jealous of their metabolism, it probably wouldn't have occurred to me that they were were ill...simply because that rail-thin, big head, starved look has been the standard of beauty for almost my entire life. (Not that I'd ever match it...I'm more Sophia Loren than Twiggy.)
posted by dejah420 at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2006

Some of those pictures are really powerful, such as the before/after of Aiva from the 2nd link. Damn. (Don't know how to link to them directly or else I would.)
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2006

The mind plays such cruel tricks on some folks. My heart goes out to them. When my mother-in-law was in a health recovery facility populated mostly by seniors like her with similar age-related ailments, the woman across the hall looked like she was in her 60s or 70s from a distance, but close up she was in her early 20s but so emaciated from anorexia that she was skeletal. She clearly did not want to be there and denied to everyone that she had a problem. Of course, the fact that she tracked down strangers in the hall to tell them this was probably part of the condition. This phot essay captures a sense of how far some will go to deny corporeality.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2006

While I am glad that people are on the lookout to keep people's work browsing safe, I can't possibly imagine the circumstances under which someone could get in trouble for following that link.

One of the photos shows a woman whose breasts are visible alongside the old scars of her self-mutilation. It is completely clinical and embedded in a series of images that couldn't be more stark or sexless.

This is only NSFW in a situation where WNS at all.
posted by hermitosis at 12:21 PM on October 16, 2006

I somewhat wish she had kept to less distorting lenses for some of her shots (a few made me think "whoa, that person's proportions are really weird", only to notice that the background and nearby objects were similarly warped, making it hard to figure out what part is the bulimia and what part is the camera lens).
posted by Bugbread at 12:45 PM on October 16, 2006

I saw this film at HotDocs, and, having been in a relationship with an ED patient and having seen what treatment is like, I can tell you that it's spot-on. The film will shatter any misconceptions about eating disorders being about vanity or looking good.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:47 PM on October 16, 2006

I've struggled with an eating disorder myself for several years, and with eating/body issues most of my life, and in the process of this I've known a lot of people with a variety of types and severities of EDs. So basically, it's an issue that's very close to me, and I'm always particularly interested in the way EDs are portrayed. There tends to be a lot of misinformation, cliches, objectification, and (worst of all, IMO) subtle glamorization involved. Some of the worst comes from magazines like People: obsessive cataloging of celebrity weight gains/losses, shock shots of bony spines, ignoring or grossly simplifying the pain of mental and physical illness. If I were a documentary photographer doing a serious project on eating disorders, I don't care how much publicity it would garner, I would never want to be associated with People.

That being said, I think Greenfield's work is really good. It's hard to photograph people with EDs without reducing them to their bodies. She manages to go beyond the usual shock/pity/gross-out value of the protruding bones, and actually shows the human side of the women.
posted by bookish at 3:48 PM on October 16, 2006

Powerful stuff. When you see the cutting scars, that's when it really hits you.

(And while I'm sure no one is in the mood for another debate regarding nsfw, a short comment a la infinitewindow's is appreciated by many. People seem to think mefites either read from home in their pajamas working on their intarweb empire or work for the local Taliban recruitment center. There's a lot of room in between, however. And I've had plenty of co-workers who wouldn't see searings documents into the lives of women and girls hurt by self-image problems, but rather, pr0n, and kiddie pr0n at that.)
posted by bardic at 3:56 PM on October 16, 2006

See through it. This is is just exploitation, just a freak show. Just a way for someone to make money with a camera. Tomorrow I go to the clinic again with my anorexic daughter of 18 (the one who used to smoke dope at 14, remember?) She has been close to death and has torn her family to pieces with her moodswings. She lives mainly on lettuce and prozac. She'd just love this site.....Try instead somethingfishy to read the truth and get some idea of what eating disorders do.
posted by terrymiles at 4:10 PM on October 16, 2006

terrymiles: I respectfully disagree with your assesment of the tone of these works.

Surely more exposure for the intricate and complex psuchological effects our immersive media environment has on our minds is a good thing, right? A freakshow is about titillation, and never elicits as much sympathy with its subjects and fear for their (and our) consumer culture as this does.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you... why do you say your daughter would love this site? It it a glamorizing freakshow?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:22 PM on October 16, 2006

Some of those pictures are really powerful, such as the before/after of Aiva from the 2nd link. Damn. (Don't know how to link to them directly or else I would.)

I found myself going back and forth between these two pictures over and over again, thinking about how much healthier she looks at a higher weight and then horrified at the thought that she probably thinks she's fat now. I pray that these women recover.

And terrymiles, I pray that your daughter recovers as well. I don't know if I agree that this is nothing more than exploitation but I can certainly understand why you feel this way. And, having known an anorexic, I can see why someone in the midst of this disorder would obsess over and love these pictures.
posted by LeeJay at 6:51 PM on October 16, 2006

With respect LeeJay, "an anorexic person."

terrymiles, please come back and talk some more. I am really interested in hearing more of your thoughts.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:54 PM on October 16, 2006

One of the weirdest things is trying to view the images without context. If you saw this photo or this one, most people/guys would see them as overweight enough to worry about -- "Lose the potbelly, chubby," or "Tone up those arms."

Those two photos are of girls who've recovered enough to leave treatment there.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:01 PM on October 16, 2006

as someone who spent a long time in ED treatment (not renfrew, but similar) those photos spoke to me in ways I can't even describe. Because the pictures are so haunting and personally evocative for me, I don't see them as exploitative, but I can understand terrymiles's concerns. It's hard to realistically portray eating disorders, especially pictures of extreme emaciation, without risking "copycat" behavior. I think it's important nonetheless.
posted by chelseagirl at 7:25 PM on October 16, 2006

With respect LeeJay, "an anorexic person."

My apologies. Didn't mean to depersonalize the term like that.
posted by LeeJay at 7:29 PM on October 16, 2006

Vogue/Style.Com — Spring 2007 Ready-To-Wear Fashion Shows.

Rag & Bone Runway ReviewBianca Balti, Freja Beha, Alison Nix, Marina Peres, Coco Rocha, Jessica Stam, Tasha Tilberg. Compare their overall appearance to any of the male runway models.
posted by cenoxo at 7:33 PM on October 16, 2006

Now that I'm home and can browse with impunity...

Some of these pictures speak for themselves (the old scars, the mother and daughter). Others look like standard myspace material, which is even more creepy to me. This post is going to stay with me a while, just like the Dove post from earlier today.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:15 PM on October 16, 2006

The documentary is really, really good, subtle and powerful and harsh and in the end pretty heartbreaking. For you HBO watchers, don't miss it next month. It's Greenfield's first film, I think, and there's a rawness in how its made as well as in the women and girls themselves.
posted by dbrown at 8:47 PM on October 16, 2006

cenoxo - those pictures are really really gross. I can't believe that the feature is actually called "Rag and Bone" without seeming to be tongue-in-cheek about it. It's horrifying.
posted by arcticwoman at 5:29 AM on October 17, 2006

These pictures are stunning. Despite having had two friends with anorexia, I'd call myself pretty ignorant about eating disorders. For ignorant people like me (much of the population, I'd wager), I think this kind of documentation is very important.
posted by Burns Ave. at 12:32 AM on October 18, 2006

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