In a town filled with world leaders in finance, entertainment and industries that don’t even have names, there is no shortage of candidates for The Most Interesting Person in Westport.
Today’s candidate is Jonathan Greenfield.
I can’t — in one blog post — do justice to the many things he’s done. But here’s a brief summary of his life (so far):
He dropped out of NYU, then found himself a member of Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires.
Without even an undergraduate degree, Greenfield was accepted into the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s avant-garde MFA program.
But he left.
His sister had been a child actor, and Greenfield himself had been on “Another World” before he was 5. So when an agent invited him to California, he went.
He drank coffee, hung out, picked up a camera, and started shooting: homeless people in LA, the beach at Venice.
During Operation Gatekeeper — President Clinton’s attempt to halt Mexican immigration — Greenfield talked his way into photographing what went on on both sides of the border, in San Diego and Arizona.
He also made money photographing actors, and doing other photography “stuff.” This phase of his life is not suitable for a family blog.
In New York, he started photographing for brands like Laura Ashley. He said “yes” to everything. No one knew how little experience he had.
Greenfield had grown up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Now he was drawn to Camden, the dangerous city a few miles — and many worlds — away.
He photographed it all, from churches to crack houses. He also made a documentary about Camden. That hooked him on filmmaking.
At the same time, Greenfield was freelancing for the New York Times. One of his photos showed Governor Christine Todd Whitman in a muskrat swamp.
He met a woman named Susanne. They applied to an elite master’s degree film program in Germany. Both were accepted.
He made documentaries for German TV, on subjects like drug addicts in rough neighborhoods, and homeless neo-Nazi transvestites.
A project filming German Jews serving in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 2nd Intifada was — among his many projects — one of the most memorable.
On an extended visit in New York, Greenfield met Iris Netzer. She got pregnant. He stuck by her side. That was the end of his European career.
Greenfield had a show in development with Animal Planet. It featured high-end dog groomers from Yonkers, working in Scarsdale. He got great footage, but it was never greenlit.
Greenfield and Iris had a 2nd child. then a 3rd. Fatherhood changed him dramatically.
His father — a doctor who gave up his practice to trade commodities — told him to give it a try.
Greenfield did. He did very well.
But he missed the adventure and excitement of filmmaking.
In 2015 he got a concussion playing ice hockey. He was drinking a lot of tea.
He had an epiphany: He should focus on tea.
Greenfield found the Tea Association of the USA. He learned as much as he could. He traveled to Seattle, to become a certified tea specialist.
These days, Greenfield is branding a budding tea company. He teaches for the Specialty Tea Institute.
He also surfs year round in Rockaway Beach. And he’s training for a triathlon.
He no longer feels the need to travel the world. He’s put his camera down. He loves tea. He’s at every game or swim meet for his kids. He skateboards with his son.
He does the books, and assists with marketing and social media for Iris’ acupuncture practice — she’s got a thriving business in New York, and a new studio called Noa (specializing in women) on Franklin Street near the train station.
“I’m just trying to go moment to moment,” Greenfield says. “I’m living the stoke.”
There may be other, equally interesting people in Westport.
But I know there is no one else in the world with a story quite like Jonathan Greenfield’s.