Greenberg was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in a suburb of Detroit. She graduated with honors in 1989 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Photography and moved to New York City to pursue a career in photography. Greenberg moved to Los Angeles in 2000 where she met her husband Robert. She moved back to New York City in 2013 with her family for Robert's position at Conde Nast Entertainment.
In 2007 Greenberg was selected by French Photo Magazine for their 40th anniversary issue to represent one of the 40 most important photographers. She has done commercial work for corporations such as Philip Morris, Microsoft, Polaroid, Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, MGM, Disney, Fox, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Smirnoff, MTV, Warner Bros., Sony Music, and Atlantic Records. Her photos have appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Wired, Fast Company, Entertainment Weekly and numerous other publications. Celebrities and CEOs who have used her head shots and portraits include Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Jenkins.
Her artwork has been featured in Harper's, The New Yorker, The New Republic and several other publications. Her monkey series has been purchased by art collectors worldwide. Her work has been shown at CLAMPART in New York and Fahey/Klein in Los Angeles. In addition, her artwork has been exhibited in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Paris, France; Adelaide, Australia; San Francisco; Chicago; and various other cities.
Greenberg is credited by some within the commercial photography industry as having produced several unique styles that have since been emulated by other photographers. "Like LaChapelle and Avedon, Jill has pioneered a new style of photography, and her impact can be seen throughout the entertainment industry", the creative director of a Los Angeles creative agency told Brief magazine, with the publication itself characterizing her work as employing "distinctive ethereal backlighting." A president of NBC Entertainment Marketing who has employed Greenberg on a number of occasions due to what he terms her "distinct and innovative aesthetic" observed that "many other photographers follow her lead."
Greenberg herself has acknowledged having made particular use of digital post production, adapting the nickname "The Manipulator" early in her career due in part to her relatively early adoption of Photoshop, a product she has used since its release in 1990. Nonetheless, she told an interviewer in 2011 that some of what her fans believe to be post production is instead the result of close attention to lighting, merely supplemented with minor "flourishes" afterwards. Greenberg suggested in a 1998 New York Times article on female gamers that her affinity for technology came from her mother: "My mom was a math buff and a science major in college. ... In 1964, she became a COBOL programmer and helped support my father through med school. She used to write programs on keypunch cards for mainframes."
End Times controversy
Greenberg's End Times, a series of photographs featuring toddlers, was the subject of controversy in 2006. 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 method for getting the children to cry was, in some cases, offering the children candy then taking it away.
The series resulted in hate mail which continued for several years, and at least one lost job for Greenberg. The images, meanwhile, have been imitated and used without permission for unrelated campaigns.
The Atlantic Magazine and John McCain photograph controversy
In August 2008, Greenberg was hired by The Atlantic to photograph John McCain for the magazine's October 2008 cover. Once the magazine hit the newsstands, Greenberg admitted to a photo industry magazine to shooting additional images, to depict McCain in a sinister light, so that she could create her own political art. Greenberg also posted to her website altered versions of photographs.
Greenberg's work and career has focused intermittently on feminist issues, starting with her senior thesis at RISD, "The Female Object", the premise of which concerned "The disciplinary project of femininity" and what Greenberg sees as the predetermined failure of all women who attempt to "succeed" at it. Greenberg's official bio cites the backlash resulting from the McCain/Atlantic incident as having prompted her to return to "the question of what is tolerated by women in our culture." Her more recent Glass Ceiling series stems from a commercial shoot in which Greenberg was asked to photograph members of the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swim Team swimming in high heels, an element that heightens sexuality while also hampering ability. According to a press release/bio released ahead of an exhibition and talk, "The result is a sadly relevant series of shots depicting women struggling to keep head above water in a context defined by the constraints pressed upon them by others."
- 1997 Award of Excellence, Communications Arts Annual
- 2004 Self-Promo Award – 2nd Place, PDN/Nikon Self Promotion
- 2005 Special Book – 2nd Place, PDN/Nikon Self Promotion
- 2006 Award of Excellence, Communications Arts Photography Annual
- 2006 Direct Mail Award – 1st Place, PDN/Nikon Self Promotion
- 2006 Print Placement – 2nd Place, PDN/Nikon Self Promotion
- 2007 AP23 American Photography
- 2007 Society of Publication Designers – Silver Medal
- 2008 Nominee, New York Photo Awards, Advertising (single)
- 2009 AP25 American Photography
- 2009 PDN PIX Digital Imaging
- 2009 Society for Publication Designers
- 2010 AP26 American Photography
- 2010 PDN PIX Digital Imaging
- Greenberg, Jill (2006). Monkey portraits. New York: Bulfinch Press. ISBN 0-8212-5755-2.
- Greenberg, Jill (2006). End times. Los Angeles: Paul Kopeikin Gallery.
- Greenberg, Jill (2009). Bear portraits. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-03188-2.
- "Jill Greenberg Studio". Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- CLAMPART. "Artists: Jill Greenberg". Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Fahey/Klein Gallery. "Jill Greenberg: Personal Page". Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Green, Shanna (Spring 2011). "The Manipulator: Jill Greenberg Uses Light, Emotion and a Little Photoshop to Make Marketing Magic". Brief: The International Journal of Media Marketing, Promotion and Design 3 (2): 8–10. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Joseph, Regina (April 16, 1998). "5 Women Gamers Rediscover Lost Loves". New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Lloyd, Tim (March 14, 2007). "Crying toddlers stir fierce emotions". The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia). News Limited. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Teicher, Jordan (August 4, 2013). "Stunning Portraits of Crying Children That Brought the Photographer Hate Mail". slate.com. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- McCardle, Megan (September 14, 2008). "Low Blow". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- Goldberg, Jeffrey (September 14, 2008). "About that McCain Photo". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 27, 2011.