The Most Interesting Person In Westport Drinks Tea

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.

A 1990s-era border wall. (Photo/Jonathan Greenfield)

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.

Wherever he went, Jonathan Greenfield found interesting subjects. (Photo/Jonathan Greenfield)

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.

Jonathan Greenfield, recently.

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.

6 responses to “The Most Interesting Person In Westport Drinks Tea

  1. Wow! Thanks Dan, nice to have a little inspiration for this day! The message I got was participate in life and anything is possible. AND you can still make it to all your kids’ games! 😉

  2. This was indeed a fascinating person to read about, Dan. What would the world be without people engagement og the power to follow their heart? Thank you for sharing it on your blog! 🙂

  3. What a great story and a great life he is a true adventurer that seems to meet with success, wonderful!

  4. Holy Smokes… Who’da thunk? Thank you for this random, yet fascinating post!

  5. Really proud of this read. Despite Jonathan’s ‘out there’ personality, he rarely lets on about the incrediblely enriching life he has had. One of the main reasons I fell for him!

  6. Ashley Greenfield

    My mom read this to me today!! He really is!! He takes after my dad. From his BMX days, to being a first mate traveling to Mexico all before Graduating from High School, to all that was mentioned.

    I believe his biggest achievement is winning a Prestigious BMW German award for his film CHAIM which debuted in America at Lincoln Center!

    Now as a father he teaches his children how to save the earth, the ocean and humanity. He is led by his heart and interest. Drinking hot handpicked tea from the mountain tops to the beach. Sharing it with anyone who are interested!

    My greatest thoughts of him are of the days he would sit on the sidewalk with the homeless, buying them a meal, sharing a coffee and life history because it mattered and still matters to him! I am excited to see just where his heart takes him, Iris, and his three talented kids during the next 50 plus years of his life!