Annie Leibovitz (b.1949)
For more about the early inventions upon which Leibovitz's lens-based art is founded, see: History of Photography (c.1800-1900).
One of the greatest photographers of American celebrities from the world of popular culture, politics and high society, Annie Leibovitz was the chief photographer at Rolling Stone magazine and, later, at Vanity Fair magazine. She has also produced covers and spreads for Vogue magazine. Her main contribution to fine art photography is her ability to produce fresh creative portraits that are in harmony both with the subjects in them and the people who look at them. It is this feeling for pop culture that turns her camera work into real art, and makes her one of the best portrait artists of the late 20th century. That said, like all the best postmodernist artists, she immerses herself in her work, and is noted for the meticulous preparation of her portrait sessions and the close consultation between her and her subjects. Influenced at an early stage by the work of camera artists Robert Frank (b.1924), Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) and Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), Leibovitz is best-known for her studio portrait of a pregnant and nude Demi Moore, which appeared on the front cover of Vanity Fair (August, 1991), and her double portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, shot just 5 hours before Lennon's murder, which appeared on the front cover of Rolling Stone (January 22, 1981). She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her portrait art, including Photographer of the Year of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (1984). In 2009 she received The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal in recognition of her contribution to the art of photography.
Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, Anna-Lou Leibovitz's great-grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. In 1970 she studies contemporary art and photography at San Francisco Art Institute. In the same year, she joins just-launched Rolling Stone magazine as a staff-photographer. Fortune smiles on her: her first photos are of John Lennon, which are published on the cover of the magazine a month later. In 1973 she is appointed chief photographer with Rolling Stone, a position she holds until she moves to Vanity Fair. During this period she is strongly influenced by the portraiture of Richard Avedon (1923-2004), and discovers that she can still create personal work within the confines of commercial photography. In 1981 she collaborates on the pilot issue of Vanity Fair, becoming its lead photographer two years later. As well as staged portraits of numerous celebrities, Leibovitz also produces photographs for a number of ad-campaigns, including the much admired campaigns for American Express (1987) and the Gap fashion company (1988). In 1991, Leibovitz has a solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, becoming only the second living portraitist to exhibit there. In 1998, she moved to Vogue magazine, while continuing her high profile independent projects. In 2006, she published a photographic memoir entitled - "Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005".
For a brief guide to the aesthetics and artistic nature of camera work, please see: Is Photography Art?
1983 New York (Sidney Janis Gallery)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Dec 1980)
In addition, she has created portraits of celebrities such as: Whoopi Goldberg; David Cassidy; Dolly Parton and Arnold Schwarzenegger; Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi; Leonardo DiCaprio; Pete Townshend; Sting; Cyndi Lauper; Michael Jackson; Johnny Depp and Kate Moss; Lance Armstrong; Lady Gaga; Rihanna; Bill Gates; Barack Obama; and Queen Elizabeth II. Her photography of leading women has associated her with feminist art, although she herself is not thought to be an active member of the feminism movement.
Photographs by Annie Leibovitz are regularly shown in the best galleries of contemporary art across Europe and America.
For other renowned len-based artists best-known for their portraits, please see the following forthcoming articles.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART