Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens.
Last week I though that I would watch a film that would be in keeping with my “documentary diet” and give me some insight and perhaps inspiration for my photographic image assignment. As is so often the case, I had heard about this film and for some reason had never thought to rent it. Well, thanks to the DVD section of the GCD libruary, now was my chance.
I, like most people with an interest in the arts, had a good idea of some of the work of famed celebrity photographer, Annie Leibovitz, and her work for Vanity Fair magazine. She is responsible for so many iconic photographs of our generation. Who can forget her glamorous photographs of a very pregnant Demi Moore, which evoked much discussion on women, pregnancy, and motherhood and our associations with these ideas. What I really enjoyed was the insight that we, as the audience, were given into her quite remarkable life, as told by her many famous and influential friends, in a film made by her sister. Like many, I’m sure, I wasn’t aware of how Leibowitz began her photographic career, or much about her personal life.
Annie Leibowitz first made a name for herself as a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, in its early days in San Francisco. During this time she was to jump head-first into the popular culture of the day, and all the madness that went with it. She went on tour with the Rollling Stones and spent time photographing John Lennon and Yoko Ono, creating the legendary images of their last day together. Lennon was shot and killed just hours after Leibowitz had left their apartment. On watching this film, I really was struck by the vast number of “famous” images for which she is responsible. Photographs so familiar, and yet I had never even thought about who might had taken them. One also cannot forget her photographs of a defeated Nixon’s exit from the White House grounds in 1974, with the guards rolling up the red carpet. So symbolic and so simple an image to communicate the demise of a controversial term in office.
And then the glossy celebrity photographs, spreads for Vogue and Vanity Fair for which she is probably best known. I found it amazing to see the arc of her work, from simple, personal and observational to high end, overtly styled, produced, directed and manufactured. But one cannot deny the artistry behind these images either, from Kirsten Dunst (aka Marie Antoinette) at the palace of Versailles, to George Clooney surrounded be a legion of semi-naked ladies, both explain why Annie Leibowitz is considered by many to be the queen of her craft.