HE First lens that Annie Leibovitz, an American photographer, appeared by means of was the rear-seat window of her parents’ station wagon. Her father was a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Power, and in the late 1960s their family members moved from suburban Connecticut to the Philippines. Her very first digicam arrived later, she claims about Zoom from her residence on Manhattan’s Upper West Aspect. It was a inexpensive Minolta SR-T 101, purchased when travelling in Japan with her mom as an 18-12 months-previous on a split from her portray experiments at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had no ideas to be a photographer, so “why shell out as well much on a digicam?”
And nevertheless Ms Leibovitz is now celebrated for her visuals of planet leaders, actors, musicians, and activists, which disarm and glorify her topics in equivalent evaluate. “Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland”, a new photobook of her operate, is the initially to emphasis on her decades-extended occupation in trend pictures and the pictures she took for Vogue.
Considerably of the 72-year-old artist’s output blurs the line between photojournalism, which strives to document a fleeting instant to preserve reality, and editorial photography, which depicts its topics in a stylised way to market solutions, tell a tale or draw in awareness. As a university student, Ms Leibovitz uncovered the friction between documentary photography and vogue shoots powerful. “The former was saved increased up even though the other was considered industrial.”
Glamour is value documenting, she thinks. Her subjects—whether they be politicians (this sort of as Hillary Clinton), pop-stars (like Woman Gaga), or activists (such as Malala Yousafzai)—are captured in an unnervingly practical way. At the same time, they radiate beneath the dramatic light she casts in excess of them, increased by a glow reminiscent of the chiaroscuro method used by Renaissance painters.
Ms Leibovitz once hoped to turn into a painter, but shortly ditched that ambition and attended night-faculty courses in pictures. “Abstract portray of the time was much too angry and I didn’t have the persistence,” she claims. In 1970 she acquired her start off performing for Rolling Stone by 1973 she was the magazine’s chief photographer. “No just one instructed me how to get a picture”, she remembers. She snapped John Lennon and Yoko Ono several hours just before Lennon’s murder, and with Hunter S. Thompson coated Richard Nixon’s very last times at the White Property.
For all the exhilaration of her working day job, she would typically uncover herself checking out the Las Palmas newsstand in Los Angeles to pour more than shiny journals total of decadent visuals by photographers this sort of as Man Bourdin and Helmut Newton. She noticed parallels between the varieties of images they developed and the perform she was doing with rock singers on tour. That gave her new tips about the ways she could acquire images, much too.
Both of those she (behind the digicam) and the topics in entrance of it are, she thinks, engaged in an act of performance. Her get the job done is imbued with theatrics. She snapped Angelina Jolie on the front of a dangle glider, and Keira Knightley as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”. Ms Leibovitz’s mother was a dance teacher, and always signed her up for lessons. “It transformed how I seem at items all over the camera,” she claims. There is a rhythm to her course of action, a a person-two of intrusion and retreat.
Her function is normally amusing, also. “My technique to vogue has often been lighthearted,” she suggests. She revels in its inherent whimsy. Acquire for instance, her shoot featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of “Sex and the City”, in front a mountainous pile of pillows. Or her sequence depicting Natalia Vodianova, a Russian product, crammed into a small home as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in her wonderland.
In 2007 Ms Leibovitz grew to become the first American to formally photograph Queen Elizabeth II and her family. Exploration is integral to this form of assignment, she states. “I can not afford to pay for to go into the shoot with no a prepare.” She views her subjects as resourceful associates and the last pictures as a reflection of that romance. But they will usually be a form of fiction, she admits, in spite of the immediacy and realism of images. It will under no circumstances be feasible to seize “the whole complexity of a subject” in a single shot. “You can only get ten percent of a human being in an picture.” ■
Equally photos in this post are equipped courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
“Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland” is printed by Phaidon. Photographic prints from the reserve will be on display at Hauser & Wirth in Southampton, New York, until eventually December 23rd, 2021.