Leibovitz, Annie 1949-

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Leibovitz, Annie 1949-

(Anna-Lou Leibovitz)

PERSONAL: Born October 2, 1949, in Westbury, CT; daughter of Sam (a U.S. Air Force officer) and Marilyn (a modern-dance instructor) Leibovitz; children: Sarah, Susan Anna, Samuelle Edith. Education: San Francisco Art Institute, B.F.A., 1971; studied photography with Ralph Gibson. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycling, hiking.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY. OfficeAnnie Leibovitz Studio, 55 Vandam St., New York, NY 10013. Agent—Jim Moffat, Art & Commerce, 108 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011. E-mail—als@leibovitzstudio. com.

CAREER: Kibbutz Amir, Israel, member of archaeological team excavating King Solomon’s temple, 1969; Rolling Stone (magazine), San Francisco, CA, and New York, NY, photographer, 1970-73, chief photographer, 1973-83; Vanity Fair (magazine), New York, NY, contributing photographer, 1983—; Annie Leibovitz Studio, New York, NY, owner. Tour photographer for rock band the Rolling Stones, 1975; World Cup Games, Mexico, poster photographer, 1986; American Ballet Theater, portrait photographer for fiftieth anniversary tour book, 1989; White Oak Dance Project, documentary photographer, 1990; Mary Boone Gallery, portrait photographer, 1990; advertising photographer for American Express, Arrow, Beef Industry Council, Christian Brothers, the Gap, Honda, Rose’s Lime Juice, and U.S. News and World Report; photographer for movie posters, record album covers, and book covers. Exhibitions include Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY, 1983, and tour of U.S. and European cities, 1983-85; Sidney Janis Gallery, 1986, and tour, 1986-89; Arles Festival, France, 1986; James Danziger Gallery, New York, NY, 1991; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, 1991, then International Center of Photography, New York, NY, 1991, and tour of U.S., European, and Far East cities, 1991-93.

AWARDS, HONORS: Photographer of the Year, American Society of Magazine Photographers, 1984; Innovation in Photography Award, American Society of Magazine Photographers, 1987; Clio Award, Clio Enterprises, and Campaign of the Decade, Advertising Age, both 1987, and Infinity Award for applied photography, International Center of Photography, 1990, all for photography for American Express “Portraits” advertising campaign.


(Editor) Shooting Stars, Straight Arrow Books (San Francisco, CA), 1973.

Photographs, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1983.

(With others) Visual Aid, edited by James Danziger, foreword by Cornell Capa, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1986.

(Photographer) Alan Olshan, editor, American Ballet Theatre: The First Fifty Years, Dewynters PLC (London, England), 1989.

(Photographer) Jim Henke, Human Rights Now!, Amnesty International (London, England), 1989.

Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

Misha and Others: Photographs, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1992.

Dancers, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1992.

Olympic Portraits, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.

Anne Leibovitz: Helsingin Kaupungin Taidemuseo, Ten-nispalatsi, 28.3.-18.7.1999 = Helsinki City Art Museum, Tennis Palace, Helsingin Kaupungin Taidemuseo (Helsinki, Finland), 1999.

(Photographer) Susan Sontag, Women, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

American Music, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of photographs to periodicals, including Bunte, Cambio 16, El Europeo, Elle, Epocha, Esquire, Interview, Le Nouvel Observateur, Life, Ms., Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, London Observer, Paris Match, Stern, London Sunday Times, Switch, Time, Vogue, and Zeit.

SIDELIGHTS: Best known for her bold, colorful photographs for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, Annie Leibovitz is “the portraitist of the rock generation,” asserted Mary Ann Tighe in the Washington Post Book World. Her famous subjects have ranged from rock legend Chuck Berry to U.S. President Richard Nixon. Often her portraits capture the essence of her subjects’ images or dig beneath the veneer of fame to reveal unexpected vulnerability. Some pictures, notably nudes such as her 1991 Vanity Fair cover shot of a pregnant actress Demi Moore, have sparked controversy. Leibo-vitz’s subjects have appeared smeared with mud or covered with roses, naked or swathed in yards of cloth, impeccably made-up or wildly disheveled. Through hundreds of attention-getting images, Leibovitz “has helped define the nature of stardom in a star-struck age,” according to Charles Hagen in ARTnews.

Reviewers expressed various theories on what makes Leibovitz’s photographs stand out. In Hagen’s ARTnews article, critic Andy Grundberg asserted that Leibovitz “exaggerates the distinctive characteristics of [her subjects’] public images in a way that’s funny and deflating.” Hagen was impressed by how “physical” her portraits are: “Leibovitz gets her sitters to use their whole bodies.” In a similar vein, several writers traced Leibovitz’s success to her skill at getting her subjects actively involved in their photo sessions.

By 1991, Leibovitz had attained such stature that the International Center for Photography and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., mounted a retrospective of her twenty-year career—only the second time such an exhibition was held for a living photographer. Record crowds turned out for the show. The total attendance for its five-week run at the Portrait Gallery equaled a year’s normal attendance at the gallery, or around three hundred thousand people. Leibo-vitz’s career was also celebrated in an accompanying book of more than two hundred pages titled Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990. Reviewing the book for the new york times book review, Christine Schwartz dubbed the photographer “the modern equivalent of a court painter.” Echoing Tighe’s opinion that the significance of Leibovitz’s work hinges on the public’s love of celebrities, she nevertheless commended Leibovitz’s ability to “achieve the combination of glamour, intimacy and wit we demand of celebrity pictures.” To Schwartz, the collection confirms Leibo-vitz as “our day’s most gifted photographer of the stars.” Richard Lacayo, writing in Time, assessed her portraits with reservations, finding them somewhat paradoxical. Asserted Lacayo: “Leibovitz’s best-known work… tries to twit propriety in the slickest possible style.” In a more favorable appraisal, Maddy Miller noted in People that Leibovitz is “still making waves,” suggesting that “this extraordinary 20-year retrospective may quickly be eclipsed by the photographer’s continuing triumphs.”

Women, for which Leibovitz took the photographs and Susan Sontag provided the text, combines an array of images of women, ranging from pictures of celebrities to unknown individuals simply going about the daily activities of their lives. Sontag’s words encourage readers to really examine the photographs, and to open themselves to the varying roles of women of all ages. The better-known photographs include those of model Jerry Hall breast-feeding her young son Gabriel Jagger, domestic goddess Martha Stewart, and illustrious writer Toni Morrison. The images of the lesser-known women, however, are special for a variety of reasons, including the looks that Leibovitz manages to inspire in her subjects and the ways in which she juxtaposes images of women in various guises, or very different women in similar or adjoining locations. She includes two photos of a pair of Vegas showgirls, for instance, both in full costume—a color shot—and in plain street clothes away from work—in black and white. In another photo she captures an intense expression on the face of a young teacher at work in the South Bronx, her hands coated with chalk from the blackboard. Rebecca Miller, in a review for Library Journal, observed that Leibovitz “elicits a sort of surprising honesty from these less-practiced models.” Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman commented that, in the ways that these women are depicted, as in real life, “questions of allure and liberation are often at odds, and Leibovitz toys with the conflict.”

Leibovitz’s next offering is American Music, a huge coffee table book with over one hundred large-scale photos of many of the icons of the American music scene, many of which were shot at the performers’ own homes. Photographs included are those of June and Johnny Cash, both of whom passed away not long after the photos were taken; Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Beck, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, and Quincy Jones. A reviewer for Hollywood Reporter praised the collection for its “exciting, provocative and memorable entries.” Creative Review contributor Mark Sinclair dubbed Leibovitz’s effort “a fascinating and ambitious project.”

Toward the close of 2004, Leibovitz faced a double tragedy in her life, losing first her longtime friend and collaborator Susan Sontag, who died of cancer after an extended illness, and then her father. In the wake of these losses, she set to work on her next book, A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, choosing the years she had known Sontag as a homage to her friend. Leibovitz includes both personal and professional work in this volume. Sadly, the pictures of Sontag herself were taken during the last two years of her life, when she was ill, and chronicle her decline. Leibovitz’s father, who died of lung cancer, is also pictured in the book. Emma Brockes, in a review for the Guardian Online, observed that the photos of Leibovitz’s father “bear a weird resemblance to those of Sontag in her last days, as if to prove a point about the democracy of death.” The book is not only about the losses Leibovitz suffered during this time, however, but also about new life. She gave birth to her first daughter in 2001, and then had twin daughters in 2005 through a surrogate, proving that life is forever cyclical. There was some controversy within Leibovitz’s circle about the publication of the book, specifically regarding the pictures of Sontag, but Leibo-vitz told Brockes: “Susan loved the good fight. And there’s no doubt in my mind—and I do this as if she was standing behind me—that she would be championing this work.”

Many more public photographs join the personal in A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, including the famous Vanity Fair cover shot featuring a pregnant, naked Demi Moore. Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Allison McCullough observed: “There is an unsettling effect in mixing the public figure with the personal, the flattering and posed with the unadorned, the grainy with the piercing sharpness of the studio.” However, McCullough goes on to quote Leibovitz: “I don’t have two lives. This is one life,” a quote that provides as much a reason for that duality as anything could.



Leibovitz, Annie, A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Leibovitz, Annie, Photographs, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1983.

Leibovitz, Annie, Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

Marcus, Adrianne, The Photojournalist, Mary Ellen Mark and Annie Leibovitz, Crowell, 1974.

Newsmakers 88, Cumulation, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988, pp. 248-249.


ARTnews, March, 1992, Charles Hagen, profile of Annie Leibovitz, pp. 90-95.

Booklist, November 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Women, p. 498.

Creative Review, November 2003, Mark Sinclair, review of American Music, p. 86.

Hollywood Reporter, December 4, 2003, review of American Music, p. 22.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Rebecca Miller, review of Women, p. 65.

New York Times Book Review, January 26, 1992, Christine Schwartz, review of Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990, p. 20; December 3, 2006, Allison McCullough, “Holiday Books: Annie Leibovitz,” review of A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005, p. 71.

People, November 18, 1991, Maddy Miller, review of Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990, p. 31.

Time, September 30, 1991, Richard Lacayo, review of Photographs—Annie Leibovitz, 1970-1990, pp. 72-74.

Washington Post Book World, November 27, 1983, Mary Ann Tighe, article on Annie Leibovitz, pp. 5, 9, 11.


Guardian Online,http://arts.guardian.co.uk/ (October 7, 2006), Emma Brockes, “My Time with Susan.”*