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Annie Leibovitz: The Iconic Photographer of Celebrity Portraits

By Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA - Annie Leibovitz at her SF exhibition, CC BY 2.0, Link

Capturing the iconic and provocative images of celebrities by using bold primary colors and surprising poses, the American portrait photographer, Anna-Lou “Annie” Leibovitz, is acclaimed as one of America's best photographers, whose high-profile photography covered many fashion magazines in 20th- century America.

Famous as the first woman to have held an exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery, Leibovitz was born October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1967, she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute intent on studying painting. Later she developed a love for photography, and began taking night classes in photography.

In 1967, Leibovitz briefly lived on an Israeli kibbutz, where she honed her skills further. In 1970, she approached Jann Wenner, founding editor of ‘Rolling Stone', which he had recently launched and was operating out of San Francisco. Impressed with her portfolio, Jann Wenner offered her a job as a staff photographer. Within two years, the 23-year old Leibovitz was promoted to chief photographer, a title she would hold for the next decade.

Leibovitz's position afforded her the opportunity to serve as the official photographer for the Rolling Stones’ 1975 world tour. While on the road with the band she produced her iconic black-and-white portraits of Keith Richards and Mike Jagger, shirtless and gritty. While with ‘Rolling Stone', she developed her trademark technique, that involve bold color and poses, as seen with a 1979 “Bette Midler” cover inspired by the rock music film “The Rose”.

Leibovitz is credited with making many ‘Rolling Stone' covers collector's items, including an issue that featured a nude John Lennon curled around his fully clothed wife, Yoko Ono. Taken on December 1980, her Polaroid of the former Beatle was shot just hours before his death.

In 1983, Leibovitz left Rolling Stone and began working for ‘Vanity Fair'. At Vanity Fair, she became known for her wildly lit, staged, provocative portraits of celebrities. With a wider array of subjects, her photographs for magazine ranged from presidents to literary icons to teen heartthrobs. Most famous among them are Whoopi Goldberg submerged in a bath of milk and Demi Moore naked and holding her pregnant belly. Since then, she has photographed celebrities ranging from Brad Pitt to Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Known for her ability to make her sitters become physically involved in her work, Leibovitz's shoot also became known for over-the-top budgets that would later be at the center of major financial challenges. In 1998, she also began working for ‘Vogue’. Besides Vogue, her portraits her portraits have appeared in ‘The New York Times Magazine' and ‘The New Yorker' , and in ad campaigns for American Express, the Gap, and the Milk Board.

Leibovitz has also collaborated with many arts organizations, including American Ballet Theatre, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Her books include “Annie Leibovitz: Photographs” (1983), “Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1909” (1991), “Olympic Portraits” (1996), “Women”(1999), “American Music” (2003), “A photographer's Life: 1990-2005 (2006), “Annie Leibovitz at Work” (2008), “Pilgrimage” (2011), and “Annie Leibovitz”, a limited addition, oversized volume published by Taschen in 2014.

Exhibitions of her photographs have appeared at museums and galleries all over the world, including the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the International Center of Photography in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, etc.

Leibovitz has been designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and is the recipient of many other honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Canter of Photography, the Centenary Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in London, and the Wexner Prize. She has been decorated a Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.


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