Photographer of the Day: Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz

b.1949

Today’s PotD is my inspiration, Annie Leibovitz. This is about to be a real fan girl session for today’s lesson, so bear with me. There will be knowledge, I promise.

Annie (I love her so much I’m just gonna go with her first name,) had always been into the arts, but she studied painting during her time at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had been working on her photography all this time though, and when the Rolling Stone magazine was born, Annie was a staff photographer, and eventually the chief photographer. She was a boss, and it is all her fault (in the best way,) for the Rolling Stone‘s aesthetic.

One of the best (and I guess worst,) stories about her decade at the Rolling Stone was when she photographed John Lennon for the cover. You’ve probably seen the iconic image, of him and Yoko Ono, which Annie orchestrated. Can you imagine telling John Lennon to take off his clothes? I sure can’t. Thing is, she photographed him on December 8, 1980– five hours after taking his picture, he was shot and killed.

Lennon’s Last Photo

The biggest reason why I adore Annie so much is the fact her work is very constructed, very beautiful, and very colorful. Very. She was also a boss at lighting, so all of these great things got her a position at Vanity Fair, which is who she primarily works for today. Seriously, this woman is such an inspiration.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

“Hello, my name is Annie Leibovitz, and I just casually photograph the Queen of England.” -Annie, probably.

The Drew Barrymore Beauty and the Beast photograph was used as inspiration for my Home Sweet Home series, believe it or not. Annie’s lighting on point.

I could probably list her images all day long. Her vision and execution of her work is something to work towards.

Another story for you: I met a professional photographer, who takes a lot of celebrity portraits in LA. Well, when he first graduated, his professor set him up with an internship with Annie Leibovitz. So he called them, to see when he needed to relocate to New York, and they said they would get back to him. This happened a few more times, and eventually he found out that they gave his internship to one of the Olsen twins. C’est la vie.

It’s no surprise that Annie is a perfectionist, and her shoots cost a fortune to create. I know the feeling. She is always determined to get “the shot,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger still jokes about flying through a blizzard in a helicopter, then nearly freezing to death for the 1997 Vanity Fair cover image of him on skis on a mountain top in Sun Valley, Idaho. She has already earned her lifetime achievement award at the age of 59 (to her dismay, actually.)

Getting a lifetime achievement award at 59 was a huge deal, but to her, it was as if the community was telling her that the last 40 years of her work were it, that those photos shot then were her best and nothing else would be better.

This is just a conjecture, but Annie’s perfectionism costs her a lot.  I totally and completely empathize, especially after reading what Andrew Eccles, one of her assistants, said: “She could never quite relax, because she was afraid that there was an even better idea… The anxiousness about whether a photograph was going to be good enough was hard to be around. It seemed like a difficult way to live.”

Gurl, I totally understand. And I bet a lot of people who are reading this understand, too. She has a lot of flaws, but she is one of the greatest photographers of our age.

Oh, btw, she had a relationship with Susan Sontag. NBD.

And that’s all for Annie Leibovitz. The next Photographer of the Day will be Man Ray, so keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

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