Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life

24 May 2009, C/O Berlin, Berlin

‘I don’t have two lives, this is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.’

leibovitz02A great exhibition this was. I wasn’t really a fan of hers to begin with, but that’s probably because I don’t give enough credit to fashion/celebrity photographers (oops). But wow, this exhibit definitely has made me think otherwise about Annie Leibovitz!

Starting off at Rolling Stones, she was recognized as the first rock n’ roll photographer. She then became one of the first photographs to piece together composed shots – subject and environment, with her first shoot being Bette Midler amongst a bed of roses.

2-29-liebovitz1Over the years, she’s taken photographs of countless people, monuments and breathtaking scenery. She seems to have this innate ability to engage with people in a way which draws out their essence, which she then takes to the next level. All her subjects constantly mention how she really pushes them past their limits and challenges them. I really like this photo of Mikhail Baryshnikov. (Pop quiz! Where else would you have seen him before?)

What I particularly loved about this exhibit however was the look into her family life. It was incredibly incredibly personal, that I almost felt like she opened the door and let us into every room of her home and every moment of her life. The most beautiful photo was of her brother with his daughter at the beach. Beautiful.

2-29-liebovitz2It’s really a very intimate and daring look at her family (a photo of her mother in her coffin) and her relationship with Susan Sontag, traced right up to her death (a photo of Susan’s body being airlifted). I wonder if the photos makes it more painful.. on one hand, you have so many captured moments to look back on, but on the other… well precisely, you have so many captured moments to look back on.

Her documentary Annie Leibovitz: Life Through A Lens was shown within the exhibition (which I need to get!) and I was really intrigued to watch her talk about her constant struggle between photography as an art and as a commercial practice. An interesting point she made was that magazine covers weren’t photography, they were marketing images. And that her best and true works were all in the inside pages.

One of her most famous photos would be that of Yoko Ono and Lennon’s last moments together, hours before he was shot… (I’m totally butchering her photos by sticking thumbnails in this I’ll spare you the horrors of seeing this last photo as a mini low-res one)

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