Emerging Photographer Fund – 2013 Shortlist
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EPF 2013 shortlist
The Social Stage
San Francisco, California has a thriving culture of what is often referred to as high society. This small group of wealthy people attends numerous glamorous social events with each other throughout the year to socialize while financially supporting local cultural institutions and other charity organizations.
These elaborate events give participants a chance to dress up, mingle with one another and generally see and be seen on the social stage. While some donors prefer to keep a low profile, those who attend the parties generally do so to put themselves on display and be part of the scene. Such an outright display of wealth seems ostentatious to many outsiders, but the cultural institutions and other charity organizations in the city rely on the patronage of these donors for the majority of their funding. The goal of the parties is to keep patrons happy and make them feel like their status as a donor makes them part of a special community so that they’ll continue to give large sums of money.
When I first came across this world I was fascinated by the way these events bring to the surface several aspects of human nature that I was interested in exploring and I began to document how people behaved when they put themselves on display in this public arena. I’ve found the parties to be a place where feelings of pride, ambition, power, envy and anxiety are on full display.
Documenting this world also provides a glimpse into the lifestyle and personality of a certain group of America’s privileged upper class. When the recent economic crisis worsened what was already a widening gap between the wealthiest individuals in the world and everyone else, I became increasingly interested in examining wealth and the effect it has on the individuals who have it. I plan to continue photographing not only in San Francisco, but also hope to document this community in other parts of the country and explore of what this type of wealth looks like across America.
Laura Morton, born in 1984, is a freelance photojournalist currently based in San Francisco, California. She grew up in Maryland and then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Laura graduated in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism. After completing photography internships with The Seattle Times and San Francisco Chronicle, Laura started her freelance career in San Francisco where she continued to work as a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some of her other freelance clients have included The Wall Street Journal, Corbis Images and The Los Angeles Times. Laura’s project ‘The Social Stage’ was awarded in the 2012 PDN Photo Annual and was a winner of the 2013 Hearst 8 X 10 Photography Biennial. In 2012, she was selected for a scholarship masterclass organized by Look3 Festival of the Photograph with photographer Bruce Gilden. Laura is also a winner of the 2013 Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers exchange.