Annie Leibovitz is arguably one of the most famous photographers ever. She has had exhibitions in every major photography museum worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the National Portrait Gallery in London. She has photographed celebrities and personalities as diverse as John Lennon, Kate Moss and Queen Elizabeth II.
Leibovitz started her photography career when she was a child travelling the world with her family as they moved from base to base for her father’s military job. In her book, ‘Annie Leibovitz at Work’ she explains that looking out of the car window as they drove around the world gave her great practice in looking at the world through a frame, which would later help her as a photographer. She started her career in the 1970s working for the Rolling Stones which was a magazine that was looking to be controversial. She has travelled to a lot of different places, especially ones where there has been wars or other conflicts. Over her career she has made a wide portfolio of many different kinds of photos.
What sets Leibovitz’s pictures apart from other photographers’ is her ability to show the personality of someone in a single frame. She can take an entire story and explain it in one single photo. It’s like she can see the essence of someone and capture that, rather than merely the look of someone.
There are several pictures of Leibovitz’s that have become iconic. The one on the right with Meryl Streep is an early photo taken by Leibovitz. She explains that Streep was a young actress and was feeling uneasy about the large amounts of attention her new fame had given her. She cancelled her first appointment with Leibowitz and only reluctantly took part in the second one. When she arrived at Leibovitz’s studio, Streep mentioned that she did not want the attention as she was no one, and she felt like she was being pulled in all different directions. Leibovitz therefore had her put on the white paint to make Streep ‘nobody’ and Streep pulled at her face to show the effects her fame had on her. The picture became the cover of a Rolling Stones cover in 1981.
The second photo that is included in this article is a picture of Queen Elizabeth II. Leibovitz was the first American ever to be asked to take the Queen’s picture and she was very honoured and very nervous. When the queen entered the room of the photo series, Leibovitz described her as a ‘force’ – the photoshoot did not go exactly as Leibovitz had planned. The queen was intent on wearing her tiara and only after much convincing did she remove it. The resulting photos are different from other photos of the queen, who is the most photographed person ever, in that they are mysterious, dark and without the crown jewels which usually accompany such photos.
If you are interested in seeing more of Leibovitz’s amazing photos you can look in one of her many published books. Her book ‘Annie Leibovitz at Work’ contains many of her most famous pictures and in it she described the process behind her pictures and the stories behind each individual work.