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!

Photographer of the Day: Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger

b. 1945

Today’s PotD is my gurl, Barbara Kruger. She is one of the main post-modern photo feminists, right up there with my other gurl, Cindy Sherman. Kruger studied visual arts at Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design, and though she is known for her photographic images and bold text, she initially used crochet and sewing to create feminist pieces. A girl after my own heart.

She went into design for a while, and, well, that’s no surprise, considering the work she is known for. Like Heineken, she exploited mass media and consumerism to bring her points home on the subjects of women’s rights (especially reproductive rights,) obsession with consumerism, and desire. What makes her so important is, well, she did it first.

Your Body is a Battleground in one of her most well known pieces on women’s reproductive rights.

Bold text over a red, black, or white background was one of Kruger’s signatures. Kruger noticed how much images and text affect our interpretation of things, and she exploited that to the max. She has created some installations with her bold text covering the walls, floors, and ceilings of a gallery.

https://collabcubed.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/kruger_at_hirshhorn_beliefdoubt_typography_escalator_3_collabcubed.jpgBelief + Doubt

Kinda critical of mass media as propaganda, amiright?

Kruger has been quoted as saying, “Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.” Homegurl paid attention, saw what words and pictures do to people, and made that a central part of her art making. You go girl!

One of the other beautiful things she has said? “When I first came on the scene when I was working on magazines, the art world in New York felt like 12 white guys.”

Finger snaps to my gurl Barbara for layin’ down some truths.

Of course, I have to talk about her achievements, like being in the Venice Biennale and was the recipient of the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement. She has taught for places like the Whitney and UCLA, to name a couple.

Kruger didn’t expect herself to become an artist in “the art world.” She’s been working now for decades, and is one of the most important and dynamic artists of our time. So, hey, if you don’t think you’re gonna be an artist, who knows! Never say never! You may one day be one of the most recognized names in the history of art! How’s that for positivity?

That’s all for today’s fierce Photographer of the Day. The next PotD will be Annie Leibovitz. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron

b. 1815 d. 1879

One of my favorite ladies ever is Julia Margaret Cameron. What’s also cool about her is her great-niece is Virginia Woolf, who is one of my favorite authors.

So, why is she remembered in the history or photography? She took it up later in life, when she was 48 years old, when her daughter gifted her a camera. Her work was mostly portraits of family and even famous figures, like Charles Darwin and her neighbor, Alfred Lord Tennyson (who brought people to Cameron’s house to view her work– what a pal!) She was most definitely the best “amateur” of her time, but man, I wouldn’t label someone with her success as such. She made sure to copyright all of her photos– hardly amateur, my dear Watson.

Cameron’s signature was soft focusing, which was pretty helpful considering one of her many goals was to capture beauty. Nothing says pretty like soft focus portraiture of pretty ladies. Another thing she is known for is using her maid (Mary Hillier) frequently as a subject in her illustrative work.

Cameron was really into creating scenes from history or literature, like her piece Ophelia, Study no 2. Because of their softness, they’ve been oftentimes compared to oil paintings. So, the painterly-ness of her images and how she constructed images based on narrative, they are dubbed illustrations.

She really enjoyed the concept of a woman’s choice between life or love. Morbid much? That’s Victorian for you.

Julia Margaret Cameron is a staple in photographic history, and it is special to note that she is a woman– it’s rare for women in the past to be credited in the world of art, and Cameron is one of the first “famous” female photographers, like Jane Martha St. John and Constance Fox Talbot, and even they aren’t mentioned as much as Cameron. So my lady here must have been super duper epic– well, it’s obvious she was.

Cameron is my gurl, and I only wish I could use soft focusing as well as she did. Don’t forget this lady, because she is truly a treasure.

So enough of my gushing over Cameron. Next PotD will be Rineke Dijkstra, another one of my favorite ladies.

Happy Shooting!