Annie Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer best known for her engaging portraits, particularly of celebrities, which often feature subjects in intimate settings and poses. Leibovitz's Polaroid
photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken five hours before Lennon's murder, is considered one of Rolling Stone
magazine's most famous cover photographs. The Library of Congress
declared her a Living Legend
, and she is the first woman to have a feature exhibition at Washington's National Portrait Gallery
Annie Leibovitz was born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut. While studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, she took night classes in photography, and in 1970, she began doing work for Rolling Stone
magazine. She became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer in 1973. By the time she left the magazine, 10 years later, she had shot 142 covers. In 1983, she joined the staff at Vanity Fair
, and in 1998, she also began working for Vogue
In addition to her magazine editorial work, Leibovitz has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express and the Gap and has contributed frequently to the Got Milk? campaign. She has worked with many arts organizations, including American Ballet Theatre, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Mark Morris Dance Group, and with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her books include Annie Leibovitz: Photographs
(1983), Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970–1990
(1991), Olympic Portraits
(1999), American Music
(2003), A Photographer’s Life: 1990–2005
(2006), Annie Leibovitz at Work
(2011), Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016
(2017), The Early Years, 1970–1983
(2018), and Wonderland
Exhibitions of her images have appeared at museums and galleries all over the world, including the National Portrait Gallery
and the Corcoran Gallery
, in Washington, D.C.; the International Center of Photography
, in New York; The Brooklyn Museum
; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; the Centre National de la Photographie, in Paris; and the National Portrait Gallery
in London. Leibovitz has been designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and is the recipient of many other honors, including the Barnard College Medal of Distinction and the Infinity Award in Applied Photography from the International Center of Photography
. She was decorated a Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
by the French government. She lives in New York with her three children, Sarah, Susan, and Samuelle.
Source: Vanity Fair
Leibovitz became Rolling Stone
’s chief photographer in 1973, and by the time she left the magazine, she had amassed 142 covers and published photo essays on scores of stories, including the 1975 Rolling Stones tour. Moments of freedom and an unyielding imagination fed the evolution of Leibovitz’s photography. The monumental body of work taken during her thirteen-year tenure at Rolling Stone
blurred the lines between celebrity and civilian, interviewer and interviewee, artist and subject, dissolving the boundary separating Leibovitz from those captured in her photographs. Documenting fellow reporters and photographers in addition to their subjects, Leibovitz highlighted those hidden behind the camera and brought them to the forefront.
Leibovitz recorded major political moments of the Seventies in the United States, including the 1972 presidential campaign, which she covered with the writer Hunter S. Thompson. In a haunting photograph taken when President Richard Nixon resigned, on August 9, 1974, Leibovitz’s camera records his helicopter as it takes off from the White House lawn. Her immersion within the political landscape extended to photographs from the 1976 election, when figures such as Jerry Brown and Jimmy Carter seized national attention. The artist photographed the Democratic National Convention in New York City, showcasing candid moments with Dianne Feinstein and journalists such as Sally Quinn and Dan Rather. Leibovitz’s unobtrusive lens implicates both the photographer and her colleagues as significant actors and contributors to cultural moments.
When traveling with the Rolling Stones to document their tour of the Americas in the summer of 1975, Leibovitz entered the band’s world to such a degree that only her camera served as a reminder of her identity. It was Leibovitz’s distinct ability to immerse herself in varying environments that enabled a direct engagement with her subjects, revealing their true, honest, and perhaps most vulnerable selves.
Leibovitz began using a medium-format camera that produced square photographs and was appropriate for shooting set-up portraits with a strobe light. The planned portraits were based on a straightforward idea often stemming from a deeply personal collaboration with her subjects. Evidencing a level of uncanny intimacy and an uncommon depth of engagement, this relationship can be seen in one of her most celebrated photographs, in which a naked John Lennon clutches Yoko Ono. The portrait, made on December 8, 1980, was meant to serve as an intimate emblem of the couple’s relationship. When Lennon was killed just hours after the photo was taken, the image became a powerful visual memorial.
In 1983, when Leibovitz joined the staff of the revived Vanity Fair
, she was established as the foremost rock-music photographer and an astute documentarian of the social landscape. At Vanity Fair
, and later at Vogue
, she developed a large body of work – portraits of actors, directors, writers, musicians, athletes, and political and business figures, as well as fashion photographs. Leibovitz’s portraiture reflects a signature technique she developed early in her career, as she consciously and consistently fit style to subject through collaborating with her subjects, photographing them in their homes or in a location that meant something to them, where friends, lovers, children, and other personal markers might appear.
Annie Leibovitz’s prolific output and her inventive approach to photography itself position her distinctly within the traditions and trajectory of American portraiture during the twentieth century. Her unique photographic language dovetailed with – and advanced – the medium’s evolution as a force for art making. The singularity of her vision, which included combining portraiture with photojournalism that captured historical and cultural touchstones throughout the United States and abroad, places her within a lineage of some of her personal heroes – artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon
, both innovators of their mediums. Influences such as Robert Frank
and Henri Cartier-Bresson
inspired Leibovitz to turn the tide on photography’s reception. Combining Frank’s highly personal and emotional style of photographic reportage with Cartier-Bresson’s Surrealist and even sculptural art photography, Leibovitz embraced her own inclination toward personal journalism. The artist’s large and distinguished body of work encompasses some of the most well-known portraits of our time.
Source: Hauser & Wirth