Best of the Best
Website Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, http://www.columbiamuseum.org
Movie Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens. Download at iTunes
Books by Annie Leibovitz Pilgrimage, Annie Leibovitz at Work, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, 1970-1990. For more Leibovitz books go to amazon.com
By Cathy Best
The Columbia Museum of Art is currently exhibiting “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage” through Jan. 5, 2014. Highly esteemed for her portraits of actors, musicians, athletes, writers, politicians and celebrities, Leibovitz is designated in the exhibit as “America’s best-known living photographer.”
In 1970 Annie Leibovitz launched her 43-year photography career with a 13-year stint at Rolling Stone magazine. She held the position of chief photographer from 1973-1983. With her arresting cover images, she created a niche for herself in portrait photography; she’s acknowledged for helping create the magazine’s iconic look. Over the span of her career, she has managed to keep her finger on pop culture’s pulse and capture her subjects in timeless images. Leibovitz stages portraits in ways that inspire the viewer to look closer. She challenges you, beyond your perception, to discover the individual.
Out of the many Leibovitz photographs that have graced magazine covers and ad campaigns over the last four decades, I’ve selected several familiar photos to share. Although, you may not have attributed them to Annie Leibovitz I think you’ll recognize them by description.
On Dec. 8, 1980, Leibovitz engaged John Lennon and Yoko Ono for a Rolling Stone magazine photo-shoot, marking the release of their “Double Fantasy” album. The immortal cover photo, of a nude Lennon embracing a fully clothed Ono on the floor of their New York apartment, was taken five hours before Lennon was murdered outside the apartment building. The photo is iconic not only for capturing the essence of Ono and Lennon’s relationship but also in the context of the historical event that surrounds it.
The controversial Vanity Fair cover, taken by Leibovitz for the Aug. 1991 issue, of a very pregnant, and nude, Demi Moore began a trend in pregnancy photographs that continues to this day.
In March of 2007 she was enlisted to take the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. Once again controversial in her artistry, three of Leibovitz’s portraits stage the Queen in the White Drawing Room. They portray her softly lit in the distance, silhouetted against a dark shadowy background. The photos capture the strength and vulnerability of Her Majesty.
The Columbia Museum of Art’s exhibit shows the other side of Annie Leibovitz, the private side. The exhibit states, “These photographs were taken simply because Leibovitz was moved by the subject. The exhibition is an evocative and deeply personal statement. The work shows Leibovitz at the height of her powers and pondering how photographs, including her own, shape a narrative of history that informs the present.” Maybe what we’re treated to in the exhibit is what lies on her side of the lens. Maybe it captures the heart of a woman who gave birth to her first child at the age of 51. Maybe it’s a peek into the life of a 64-year-old single mother of three daughters who manages a house and demanding full-time career. Maybe this side of the lens reflects who Annie Leibovitz is.