I am somewhat torn about Annie Leibovitz. Perhaps it's when a photographer or artists goes too commercial that I begin to worry that they've somehow sold out. But then again, perhaps by reaching the masses, their work not only becomes more valid, it has the potential to make a big impact on people's lives. And...what greater accomplishment in life is there than inspiring others to find their own passion?
Annie Leibovitz's story is an interesting one. She enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute intent on studying painting but a lucky trip to Japan with her mother the summer of her sophomore year derailed her plans as she discovered her love of photography. Fast forward to 1970 when she had the balls to approach the founding editor of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner. At that time, Rolling Stone had just launched. I'm sure it was a divine intervention because I know it wasn't a coincidence that her first assignment was to shoot John Lennon.
Two years later she was named Rolling Stone chief photographer.
Her most famous photograph would be of John again, this time with Yoko. “We took one Polaroid,” said Leibovitz, “and the three of us knew it was profound right away.” Several hours after the photo was taken, Lennon was shot dead in front of his apartment. The photograph ran on the cover of the Rolling Stone Lennon commemorative issue. In 2005 the American Society of Magazine Editors named it the best magazine cover from the past 40 years.
(From Wikipedia) After she had initially tried to get a picture with just Lennon alone (she would recall that, "nobody wanted [Ono] on the cover.", Lennon insisted that both he and Yoko Ono be on the cover. Leibovitz then tried to recreate the kissing scene from the Double Fantasy album cover, a picture that she loved. "What is interesting is she said she'd take her top off and I said, 'Leave everything on'...not really preconceiving the picture at all. Then he curled up next to her and it was very, very strong. You couldn't help but feel that she was cold and he looked like he was clinging on to her... I shot some test Polaroids first and when I showed them to John and Yoko, John said, 'You've captured our relationship exactly. Promise me it'll be on the cover.' I looked him in the eye and we shook on it." She was the last person to professionally photograph Lennon — he was shot and killed five hours later.
With her work for Vanity Fair, Annie is now known for her incredible celebrity photos. Thoughout her 30 years of photography, she has provided a cultural snapshot for all of us.
Some of her photos:
Looking forward to seeing this documentary, Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens which is released on Amazon Oct 28, 2008.
This documentary, directed by her sister, is a fascinating portrait of a great talent, featuring vintage footage of Leibovitz in action during the 1960s and contributions from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Mick Jagger and George Clooney.